Daily Archives: 05/01/2015

Role of Alcohol in Intimate Partner Abuse

New research  published in December looking at the role of alcohol in intimate partner abuse from Alcohol Research UK.

The main aim of the project was to recruit and interview a range of participants with different levels of conflict in their relationships, in particular collecting data from those convicted of domestic offences, plus those seeking help for relationship conflict and a general population sample, to investigate the roles of alcohol in domestic abuse/partner conflict.

This three-phase study collected quantitative and qualitative data to investigate links between drinking and relationship conflict, and also sought to explore cultural events known to co-occur with drinking and domestic violence, such as football.  One focus was on the Glasgow ‘auld firm’ football fixture, which had been linked to ‘spikes’ in the incidence of domestic violence locally (Dickson et al, 2012).

The research also sought to explore the use of alcohol as an excuse for domestic abuse, and to consider the evidence to support or challenge previously proposed theoretical links between domestic abuse and alcohol (McMurran & Gilchrist, 2008) specifically: the direct effects model, the indirect effects model, the spurious link model, the multi-threshold model. The research sought to encompass the heterogeneity recognised in domestic abuse; the central role of coercive control within domestic abuse and the need for multi-level nested models as an explanatory framework (Gilchrist et al, 2003).

Key findings

  • Two-thirds of ‘domestic’ incidents known to the police were found to involve at least one of the couple concerned being ‘under the influence’ of alcohol.
  • There are peaks in such incidents at times of contentious football matches, but also during other significant cultural events involving alcohol such as New Year.
  • According to alcohol screening tools, those convicted of domestic abuse were more risky drinkers (from their AUDIT scores) and associated their drinking with aggression more (from their ARAQ scores) in comparison to other groups.
  • Interviewed participants considered alcohol to have a direct effect on their behaviour and did sometimes present alcohol as an exculpatory factor. However, alcohol’s role in conflict was not restricted to times of intoxication but extended across issues such as male entitlement to drink, control or prevention of his partner’s drinking and his spending from family budget to buy drink.
  • There were clear indications of intertwined cultural, sub-cultural, familial and contextual influences on gender and alcohol use, such that when women were drinking they were held more accountable for any relationship conflict (victim blaming), whilst if men were drinking they were held to be less accountable (accused excusing).


Alcohol is a correlate of domestic abuse and thus does need to be addressed. The high levels of alcohol consumption in our ‘convicted’ sample and relationship conflict in our ‘conflicted’ and ‘convicted’ samples suggests that joint intervention might be appropriate for those experiencing relationship conflicts.

However the strong beliefs in a direct causal effect of alcohol, and strong culturally shaped and gendered beliefs about men and women’s drinking, also demands that alcohol is addressed not as an individual risk factor but in terms of alcohol expectancies, related beliefs and as a gendered issue.

To read the full research report go here

Interestingly although I have praised Scotland’s moves to manage alcohol within Scottish culture this story that broke in December had me scratching my head as it went against everything else that they have been doing.  It also feeds into the issue of domestic abuse which is why I’m linking it here.

Scottish Labour leader criticised over proposal to end football alcohol ban

The leader of the Scottish Labour party, Jim Murphy, has been criticised by women’s organisations working with the victims of domestic abuse after he suggested that the ban on alcohol at Scottish football matches should be lifted.  Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball programme on Saturday, Murphy said he was in favour of overturning the ban “on a trial basis”.

Mhari McGowan, head of service at Assist, which works with Police Scotland’s domestic abuse taskforce to support victims, described his proposal as “absolutely crazy.  We know that some football matches cause a spike in domestic violence. If you add alcohol to that mix, then you’re asking for trouble,” she said.

The ban was introduced following violent clashes between Old Firm rivals Rangers and Celtic after the 1980 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park.  A report published last month by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research highlighted the correlation between certain football matches and increased reports of domestic abuse.  Stressing that alcohol was a factor in domestic abuse, she said the Scottish experience – in particular around Old Firm games – showed that “without a doubt” there was a link between alcohol, football and domestic abuse.

McGowan said: “We’ve done so much in Scotland to try and change the culture of violence and alcohol. At the moment, we have a situation where alcohol is used as an excuse to abuse, and lifting the ban sends out all the wrong signals. It’s really not the time to do this.”

I completely concur and you can read the full story here.