Drinking and Partner Violence – what’s the connection?

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Drinking and Partner Violence – what’s the connection?

   New link established between violence, drinking pattern, age, marital status

    TORONTO, Dec. 2 /CNW/ - New research in Canada has linked physical
aggression between intimate partners to drinking pattern, age and marital
status. Recent analyses conducted by Dr. Kathryn Graham from the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and colleagues also revealed interesting
gender differences in the emotional responses of victims and aggressors. The
research was completed as part of the GENACIS project (Gender, Alcohol and
Culture: An International Study), This important works adds to knowledge on
partner aggression, and may help address policy responses to preventing and
addressing such violence in Canada and elsewhere.
    The results from this research are reported in a new book called Unhappy
Hours: alcohol and partner aggression in the Americas, edited by Dr. Graham,
CAMH's Sharon Bernards, Myriam Munné from the Research Institute of University
of Buenos Aires and Sharon Wilsnack from the University of North Dakota, and
published by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
    In Unhappy Hours, the Canadian chapter looks at alcohol and partner
aggression in the 10 provinces using data from the GENACIS Canada survey,
funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This survey
included a representative sample of 14,063 Canadian residents (6,009 men and
8,054 women) aged 18 to 76 years from all 10 provinces. It is the largest
study in Canada to examine the link between alcohol use and intimate partner
aggression, including both victimization and perpetration by both male and
female partners.
    Analyses from the survey suggested that level of alcohol consumption was
strongly associated with being both the perpetrator and victim of partner
physical aggression. For example, both men and women who consumed five or more
drinks on any occasion in the past year were significantly more likely to
report partner physical aggression than were respondents who never consumed
alcohol at this level. The relationship between drinking pattern and partner
aggression was especially strong among those who reported that alcohol was
involved in the most severe incident that they had experienced in the past two
    The study also found that partner aggression decreased with age and was
least likely among couples who were legally married (compared to cohabiting,
divorced/separated or single). In addition, female victims rated aggression by
the male partner as more severe and themselves as more afraid, upset and angry
compared with ratings by male victims. Female aggressors also had high ratings
for feeling upset and angry, suggesting a possible gender difference in the
emotional impact of partner aggression.
    These findings were mirrored across the other nine countries included in
the analyses, suggesting that the relationship between alcohol consumption and
intimate partner violence is similar across diverse cultures and drinking
    According to Dr. Graham, "the GENACIS multinational collaboration
provides important new knowledge by using the same questionnaire in every
country. Being able to demonstrate the same pattern of findings regardless of
differences among countries in both the level of intimate partner violence and
drinking patterns suggests a universal association that is not dependent on
how a particular culture perceives the role of alcohol. It is particularly
noteworthy that, although frequency of drinking is not consistently related to
partner violence across different countries, there is a very consistent link
between amount consumed per occasion and engaging in partner violence,
suggesting that it is intoxication rather than merely alcohol use that
provides the link."
    "This research provides evidence of the strong links between excessive
alcohol use and intimate partner violence in Canada and abroad," said Dr. Joy
Johnson, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health.
"Violence is pervasive in our society and understanding how alcohol
contributes to the risk of violence is essential."
    For Dr. Graham, the most important next step is to use this knowledge
regarding the relationship between drinking pattern, age and marital status to
develop health policies and programs that take into consideration the factors
that make a couple most at risk and act to reduce the role of alcohol as a
trigger or excuse for violence.

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest
mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's
leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH
combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health
promotion to transform the lives of people affected by mental health and
addiction issues.
    CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan
American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

    The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of
Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new
scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more
effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian
health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and
support to nearly 12,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

For further information: To arrange interviews please contact Michael
Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015

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