It’s no secret that alcohol, drug use and domestic violence are frequently linked. An extensive body of scientific research supports that connection. But a new study indicates that where someone drinks may also influence the type and frequency of violence among intimate partners.
Christina Mair, Ph.D., a new assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh’sGraduate School of Public Health, led a study published last week in the journal Addiction of the drinking habits of California couples. The researchers surveyed more than 2,000 couples to gather information about drinking in six places: restaurants, bars, parties at a private residence, quiet evenings at home, with friends at one’s home, and in public places.
Dr. Mair found that men drinking in bars and parties away from home were linked to increased male-to-female violence. Instances of women drinking in public places and parks were also linked to male-to-female violence. Dr. Mair and her colleagues at the Prevention Research Center in California also found a correlation between men and women drinking during quiet evenings at home and increased female-to-male violence.
Female-to-male-violence includes arguing, or pushing and shoving. Almost 10 percent of all the couples Dr. Mair surveyed reported instances of partner violence where the woman was the aggressor. Six percent of the study participants reported male-to-female violence, which is usually more severe.
“This is the first time that anyone has looked at this at all. It’s not just how much you drink, but where,” says Dr. Mair. “It matters for both partners and both types of violence. Now we have to find out why.”
Dr. Mair and her colleagues say these findings may open the door for practical interventions.
“Instead of just advising couples to drink less, it may be more effective to encourage them to avoid drinking in certain contexts,” she says.