Physical violence and intimate partner aggression are linked to problem drinking in men. Additionally, men who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) have been shown to engage in high levels of verbal abuse and psychological aggression with their partners. Other factors, such as personality and drinking attitudes, also influence these behaviors. Because psychological aggression can have significant negative consequences on the victim and can escalate to include other forms of aggression, understanding how related factors affect psychological aggression in men with AUD can be an important step in designing interventions to help these men and their partners. Lorig K. Kachadourian of Boston University’s School of Medicine and the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System recently conducted a study to identify what other events or behaviors increased this type of aggression in men with AUDs.
Kachadourian looked at anger, cognitive abilities, drinking history, drug use, AUD severity, and relationship conflict in 178 men who were receiving treatment for AUD. The participants and their partners were assessed once at the beginning of the study and again 6 months and 12 months into their treatment. The study revealed that an alarmingly high percentage of men with AUDs had used psychological aggression. Specifically, at baseline, nearly 100% reported using verbal or psychological aggression. That number decreased to 97% at 6 months and 88% at 12 months of follow-up. Kachadourian discovered that virtually every related factor examined in the study directly increased the likelihood of these men engaging in psychologically aggressive behaviors.
Of interest was the fact that both the men and their partners believed that relationship problems increased alcohol use and alcohol use increased relationship problems. Both of these factors also increased the level of psychological aggression in the participants. Having a better idea of how these factors influence aggression in intimate relationships can help clinicians create interventions that focus on these beliefs and behaviors to minimize the negative impact that psychological aggression has on the individuals and the relationship. Kachadourian suggests that therapists look closely at drinking history, anger, emotional control, and relationship conflict when working with individuals or couples struggling with psychological or verbal aggression. Kachadourian added, “Indeed, research has shown that couples-based interventions for alcoholics, which include some of these components, have been shown to be effective in decreasing not only alcohol consumption, but marital aggression as well.”
Kachadourian, L. K., Taft, C. T., O’Farrell, T. J., Doron-LaMarca, S., & Murphy, C. M. (2012). Correlates of intimate partner psychological aggression perpetration in a clinical sample of alcoholic men. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027436
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