Intimate Partner Violence – The Role of Alcohol

Episodes of intimate partner violence are associated with alcohol consumption.

To explore this relationship further, researchers interviewed a random sample of heterosexual couples at baseline and 5 years later. They assessed alcohol use and related problems, and the incidence (new cases) and recurrence (cases at both follow-up and baseline) of male-to-female partner violence and female-to-male partner violence.

Analyses included 1136 couples who were cohabitating and/or married at both baseline and follow-up. Partner violence was defined as a range of violent behaviors, such as slapping, kicking, forcing sex, and threatening with a gun or knife.

At follow-up, the incidence of both female-to-male and male-to-female partner violence was only 6 percent. However, recurrence was more common (female-to-male violence 44 percent, male-to-female violence 39 percent).

In unadjusted analyses, incidence and/or recurrence of partner violence was significantly associated with greater mean consumption by male perpetrators; heavy drinking (at least 5 drinks on an occasion in the past year) by male and female perpetrators; and/or alcohol problems among male and female perpetrators.

Among these alcohol indicators, only mean consumption (among both female perpetrators and male victims) remained significantly associated with new or recurrent cases of female-to-male partner violence when analyses were adjusted for potential confounders.

Comments by Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH: Female-to-male partner violence was as common as male-to-female partner violence in this population-based sample, whereas male perpetration of partner violence is often the norm in clinical samples. Nevertheless, heavy episodic drinking, alcohol problems, and higher average alcohol consumption should be considered risk factors for partner violence and addressed in prevention efforts.

Reference: Caetano R, McGrath C, Ramisetty-Mikler S, et al. Drinking, alcohol problems and the five-year recurrence and incidence of male to female and female to male partner violence. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005;29(1):98-106.

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