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Beliefs About Aggression and Alcohol May Influence Behaviors

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

The use of alcohol is associated with multiple negative outcomes. Some effects of alcohol use are evident over a long period of time, such as certain liver diseases, cancer and other health-related problems. Other consequences are more immediate, such as an increased rate of risky sexual behaviors among those who consume alcohol.

One common effect of alcohol use is the increased risk of injury. Some injuries related to alcohol use stem from an increased level of physical aggression present in some individuals. This effect is not present in everyone who consumes, alcohol, however. Many individuals do not experience an increased level of physical aggression.

For those who do, it can have a potentially serious effect on those in their immediate vicinity. Recently, a study led by Lorig K. Kachadourian of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System, examined how one’s own beliefs about the impact of alcohol on behaviors impacts their actual behaviors. The study specifically looked at the beliefs about alcohol and aggression and violence in married couples.

The research team examined the attitudes and beliefs about how alcohol affected their own behavior among 634 newly-married couples. The couples were assessed over the first four years of marriage. The assessments particularly focused on how aggression and hostility levels were impacted by alcohol use.

The assessments of the participants’ beliefs about their own behaviors were compared with reports of their experiences of their behaviors and that of their spouses. The results showed that husbands who indicated that intoxication would increase levels of aggression found that the reality matched the expectation. The same results were not exhibited among the wives.

The researchers also discovered that when participants that are predisposed to hostile reactions, they experienced more aggression when they were intoxicated, independent of any beliefs about aggression levels related to alcohol use. Those with a low level of baseline hostility showed less agression with alcohol use.

There are many factors that can lead to an individual’s experience while intoxicated. Environmental influences and family history are just two factors that may significantly impact how a person behaves while intoxicated. These and other factors are also important when considering an individual’s beliefs and attitudes about alcohol consumption and intoxication.

The research conducted by Kachadourian may be limited by its use of self-report to gather data about beliefs related to alcohol consumption and the actual behaviors exhibited by participants.

Future research should also include couples who have been married various periods of time to determine whether the beliefs about aggression and alcohol behaviors may change over time or as a person ages.

The study’s findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.