Binge Drinking and Domestic Violence Linked

Binge drinking has been defined as consuming five or more drinks in succession. Binging can be a one-time occurrence or could be a pattern in which a person over-indulges once a month or more. A recent study examined the effects of binge drinking on families and domestic partners.

The University of Otago study led by Professor Jennie Connor of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine included 1900 subjects ranging in age from 18-70. The subject group was considered representative of the general population.

The study reports a definite link between episodes of binge drinking and instances of domestic/partner aggression. Since it is well documented that alcohol intake is directly related to increases in aggression the study may at first glance appear redundant. However, this is the first study in New Zealand which examined the impact of binging on violence within the home. The study gives data to back up what might have been feared – namely that alcohol inflames instances of domestic aggression even in the most average New Zealand families.

According to the study, it is twice as likely that a couple will experience physical aggression when even one of the partners binges at least once a month. The study intentionally included all levels of aggression and not only the most egregious since violence among partners has a tendency to begin small and progressively escalate. The partner who binges monthly is twice as likely to be the aggressor and three times as likely to be the victim when compared to non-binging people the study said.

Also worthy of note was the report’s findings concerning the differences in how men and women experience instances of domestic violence or partnership aggression. Interestingly, female to male aggression was reported more often (15%) than instances of male to female aggression (12%). Nevertheless, women’s experience of partner aggression was more severe, more angry and involved higher degrees of fear than that experienced by men.

Those findings square with the day-in day-out anecdotal experience of Dunedin police Sergeant Jan Craig who told reporters that fully one half of family violence cases there involve the use of drugs or alcohol with men most often acting as the aggressor.

The study reveals that while both sexes may become more aggressive as a result of over-drinking, women are at greater risk in such situations. It provides data proving that people who drink heavily become more aggressive even if they would not normally be so apart from alcohol. The study clearly indicates that when a pattern of binge drinking exists, instances of physical aggression increase.

Those who intervene in family violence cases, such as police and substance abuse service providers, attest to the dangers of drinking but are quick to point out that over-drinking does not excuse aggressive behavior. Those who see the wreckage binge drinking can bring into a home say that making alcohol more costly, less available and less widely promoted could prove important steps toward the prevention of domestic violence.