Category: Couples / Close Relationships
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a concerning public health problem in the United States. There has been consistent evidence for a positive association between alcohol use and IPV perpetration. However, relatively little research has been conducted to explore the proximal relation between alcohol use and IPV. The primary focus of the current study was to compare how the antecedents of men’s IPV differed between instances of violence involving alcohol vs. those that did not. In accordance with the attention-allocation model (AAM) of alcohol use (Steele, Southwick, & Pagano, 1986), it was hypothesized that men who consumed alcohol proximal to IPV perpetration would engage in violence in response to a wide range of partner cues, whereas men who were sober would only react violently in response to the most overtly threatening partner cues. Participants were 80 couples from the diverse Houston community currently in abusive relationships. Sequential analysis of interview data from female partners was used to determine whether antecedents to men’s initial act of IPV differed when the male partner was or was not using alcohol directly preceding violence in both the most recent and worst incidents of IPV. For non-alcohol using men, their initial act of violence was significantly likely to be preceded by their intimate partner’s overt physical threat in both the most recent (z = 3.95, p < .001) and worst (z = 2.93, p < .01) incidents of violence. Their violence was unrelated to their partner’s engagement in negative communication (e.g., yelling, blaming, withdrawing). These men were significantly less likely than chance expectation to react violently to women’s engagement in other behavioral codes. For men who had consumed alcohol directly prior to the most recent violent incident, their initial act of violence was unrelated to their partner’s engagement in either negative communication (z = 1.51, p = ns) or physically threatening behavior (z = 1.73, p = ns). For men who had reportedly consumed alcohol directly prior to the worst violent incident, their initial act of violence was not preceded by their partner’s engagement in any of the three categories of antecedent behavior (physical threat, negative communication, or other). Thus, the antecedent to violent acts differed when men were using alcohol compared to when they were sober. These results suggest that when violent men were not using alcohol, they reacted violently to their partner’s behavior only when it was overtly threatening (e.g., their partner making a physical threat or engaging in a violent act). On the other hand, violent men who were using alcohol reacted violently to a variety of cues, making their behavior unpredictable and potentially more difficult to treat.