If You Expect Aggression When You Drink, Does It Happen?

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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  • Randall


    October 29th, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    There are simply some hotheads out there who go out looking for a fight and generally that’s what they get after they have a few drinks under their belts. There are just some people who are always looking for trouble and lo and behold, get them to drink some alcohol and boom! They find it.

  • lark


    October 29th, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    My conclusion is that it all depends on what kind of person you are to begin with even before you start drinking. If you are naturally an agressive person then chances are a drink ain’t gonna mellow you out but exaggerate the problem.

  • Hanna M

    Hanna M

    October 29th, 2012 at 11:22 PM

    I have a few friends who swear they do not get violent when high and yet they do.Maybe they know the result but just want to justify their drinking and do not want to admit the truth.Such people should be honest with themselves and see where alcohol is leading them.

  • James


    October 30th, 2012 at 3:56 AM

    Expectations typically lead to reality, so this is another case of where this is probably true.
    Go out looking for something specific and that is normally what you will find.

  • immanuel


    October 30th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    true.most often the people getting into brawls and any sort of violence under the influence of alcohol are those that are aggressive anyway.maybe there is a slight increase in the aggressiveness of others but alcohol does not make you violent per se.if the tendency is there it just awakens,and if absent is never seen.

  • ryan


    October 31st, 2012 at 5:06 AM

    from my experience this is quite accurate.the mood and expectations increase many fold and if your mind says you are going to be aggressive well then yes you are!

    its more of a its-all-in-your-mind thing than the effects of alcohol.some people just mellow down and enjoy their drink while others want to fight with anyone possible.that is just the person and his mind.

  • damien


    October 31st, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    aggressiveness increases at least a hundred points for me with alcohol,whether I think of it or not.I am not an aggressive person otherwise so my aggressiveness is quite surprising as even my friends pointed that out.they say alcohol is a social drink but I think it can make you quite anti-social.

  • jim h

    jim h

    October 31st, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    No I am sorry but I don’t believe this. There are some people who go out fully expecting to have a great time and have fun for hours but then. . . they have the alcohol in them and they morph from dr Jeckyll into scary old Mr Hyde. Yeah that’s not the person I intended to party with but that’s who they become when they drink, expectations or not!

  • kam


    November 1st, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Some married person who drinking alcohol are aggressive,other married person are calm even after alcohol.This all depends upon the mood of the person while drinking.Some person drinking only to the purpose of revenge their wife for their personal problems.

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