Category: Violence / Aggression


The Role of Alcohol Intoxication and Attentional Processes in Partner Aggression During Anger Arousal

Saturday, November 18
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Cobalt 501, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: Attention | Intimate Partner Aggression | Alcohol
Presentation Type: Symposium

Intimate partner aggression (IPA) is a prevalent problem with serious adverse consequences. Two risk factors that may play important roles in predicting IPA are alcohol intoxication and neurocognitive processing during anger arousal. Acute alcohol intoxication is consistently linked to increased IPA perpetration (Klostermann & Fals-Stewart, 2006).  However, the mechanisms underlying the link between the alcohol intoxication and IPA relationship are unclear. Prior theory and research suggests that neurocognitive processing deficits, which have been independently linked to IPA (Stanford et al., 2007), may help explain this relationship (Giancola, 2000). Specifically, alcohol-induced difficulties with neurocognitive processing, especially attentional deficits, may mediate the linkages between alcohol intoxication and IPA. The present study examined this possibility using an experimental design to test an integrative model in which attentional deficits were expected to mediate the interactive effects of alcohol intoxication and past IPA perpetration on in vivo verbalized aggression during anger arousal, which is a common precursor to physical IPA (Schumacher and Leonard, 2005).

Participants were 38 individuals in romantic relationships recruited from the community. IPA perpetration was assessed with the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus et al., 1996). Participants were randomly assigned to an alcohol or placebo condition, and then responded to anger-arousing dating scenarios presented via the Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations (ATSS; Davison et al., 1983) paradigm. Attentional processing was assessed with event-related potentials, specifically the P300 amplitude, derived from responses to a visual oddball paradigm presented during the ATSS task. Verbalized aggression articulated during the ATSS was coded by trained research assistants and served as the dependent variable.

Path analysis results indicated that only intoxicated individuals with a history of IPA perpetration exhibited increased verbalized aggression during anger arousal, b = 1.22, p = .02. The interaction between IPA and alcohol was not significant in predicting attentional processing, b = -4.30, p = .21. Further, tests of the proposed mediated moderation model were not significant. The importance of targeting alcohol use in IPA treatment and implications for the development of intervention and prevention strategies will be discussed, as will possible explanations for the lack of mediated moderation. 

Rosalita Maldonado

Clinical Psychologist
VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System


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