Category: Couples / Close Relationships

Symposium

Alcohol-Induced Intimate Partner Violence: A Test of Alcohol Myopia Theory

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom I & J, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Intimate Partner Aggression | Alcohol | Couples / Close Relationships
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: The association between alcohol use and intimate partner violence (IPV) is supported by ample empirical evidence. While much research indicates various situational and dispositional moderators of the alcohol-IPV association, there has been almost no research on factors that might explain how alcohol increases IPV risk. In the present research, we examined alcohol intoxication as a predictor of IPV and investigated alcohol’s impact on attentional deployment during relationship conflict.


Methods: From a community sample of 239 heterosexual couples, an index participant was identified who reported (1) a one-year history of consuming at least five (for men) or four (for women) drinks per drinking day, and (2) perpetration of psychological or physical aggression toward their partner. The index participant was randomly assigned to consume an alcohol or alcohol-free beverage, followed by engagement in two tasks: (1) completing a dot-probe task assessing attentional bias towards anger or aggression related words, and (2) competing in a laboratory aggression task in which participants believed they were delivering, and receiving, electric shocks to and from their partners. Physical IPV was defined by shocks administered during the task.


Results indicated that, relative to sober subjects, individuals who consumed alcohol exhibited greater attentional biases towards anger-related words (p < .048). In addition, intoxicated participants delivered significantly higher shocks for a longer duration to their supposed intimate partners (p < .043).


Conclusion: Results support the attention allocation hypothesis of Alcohol Myopia Theory and suggest important process-level factors that, in turn, may activate other clinically relevant aggressogenic affective and cognitive processes.

Christopher I. Eckhardt

Purdue University

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