Alcohol consumption can be relatively harmless for many people. But for some individuals, alcohol is a potent ingredient and, when added to a predisposition for hostility, can lead to violence and aggression. For married people, relationship problems create tension. Add hostility fueled by alcohol and it can be a recipe for violence. Existing research has shown that alcohol can increase aggressive behavior in certain individuals. However, understanding how one’s beliefs about alcohol-related behavior influences outcomes is less understood. Because people’s own appraisals can significantly impact their behaviors, Lorig K. Kachadourian of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System wanted to test whether beliefs about alcohol-related violence predicted aggression in married people.
In a recent study, Kachadourian evaluated 634 newly married couples during their first four years of marriage. The participants were assessed for their beliefs about how alcohol affected their personal behavior, with special emphasis on aggression and hostility. The results revealed that husbands who believed that their aggression would increase when they were intoxicated actually exhibited that behavior. However, this same dynamic was not found in the wives. Kachadourian also found that the participants who were predisposed to hostile reactions reported more aggression when intoxicated regardless of their beliefs, while those with low baseline hostility were less aggressive.
Alcohol-related expectancies can be shaped by environmental cues, family history, and personal experiences. This most recent study shows that a person’s appraisal of his or her own alcohol-related outcome plays a significant role in subsequent behavior. Because Kachadourian’s research was based on self-reports, the levels of aggression reported by the participants may be diluted. Future work will need to include corroboration of aggressive behavior to ensure valid reports. Also, couples who have been married for longer periods of time should be evaluated to determine if the appraisal-behavior effect decreases over time. Delving deeper into this topic will allow researchers to have a more accurate picture of how beliefs affect behavior with respect to alcohol. “In so doing, we will be better able to explain why consuming alcohol poses an increased risk for the occurrence of violence and aggression, particularly in marriage,” Kachadourian said.
Kachadourian, Lorig K., Gregory G. Homish, Brian M. Quigley, and Kenneth E. Leonard. Alcohol expectancies, alcohol use, and hostility as longitudinal predictors of alcohol-related aggression. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 26.3 (2012): 414-22. Print.
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