Does Drinking Generate Family Violence

Unfortunately, violence is common in American households, and alcohol is a contributing factor, according to research done by Kantor and Straus (1989) and by Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz (1980), among others. Hotaling and Sugarman (1986) found that alcohol appears to be most relevant to the occurrence of husband-against-wife violence. Hamilton and Collins (1981) reviewed about 25 studies that examined the role of alcohol in spouse and CHILD ABUSE. They found alcohol to be most relevant to wife beating, where it was present in one-quarter to a half of all such events. (Alcohol was present in less than one in five incidents of child abuse.) The most common pattern was for only the husband to be drinking or for both parties to have consumed alcohol. It was uncommon for only the wife to have been drinking. Stud ies also indicate that husbands or partners with alcohol problems were more likely to be violent against their wives/partners.

A 1998 BJS study on the relationship between crime and alcohol found that two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor. Among spouse victims, three out of four incidents were reported to have involved an offender who had been drinking. By contrast, an estimated 31 percent of stranger victimizations where the victim could determine the absence or presence of alcohol were perceived to be alcohol-related.

Research by Jones and Schecter (1992) and by Barnett and Fagan (1993) on family violence suggests that violence against women may lead to their own use of alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. Drinking and/or drug use may be a response to the physical and emotional pain and fear that result from living in a violent relationship. Miller, Downs, and Testa (1993) found that women in alcohol-treatment programs had higher rates of father-to-daughter violence than did the women in the comparison group. These findings underline the importance of interpreting the meaning of alcohol s association with family (and other forms of) violence carefully. As previously noted, alcohol is often present but irrelevant to the occurrence of violence. Some recent literature on family violence indicates that alcohol use may sometimes be a response to violent victimization.

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