Objectives: To examine the role of alcohol at the time of aggressive incidents between intimate partners in the general population by gender, by estimating (1) prevalence and severity of aggression, and drinking at the time, (2) associations of drinking at the time of the aggression with reported severity, anger and fear, and (3) association of usual drinking patterns with partner aggression.
Design: A national survey of 18-70-year-olds using an electoral roll sample obtained self-reported alcohol consumption, partner's alcohol consumption and details of the most severe partner aggression by the respondent and towards the respondent in the past 2 years. The mean scores for associated severity, anger and fear were analysed by gender and alcohol involvement. Multinomial models estimated associations of drinking patterns with aggression to and from the respondent.
Results: The response rate was 49% (n=1925). Men and women reported similar prevalence of victimisation and perpetration of aggression (11-15%). Alcohol was involved in more than 25% of incidents, and reported more by women than by men, particularly male-only drinking when the respondent was the victim. Women reported greater severity, anger and fear with victimisation than men, and drinking was associated with greater reported severity. Heavy episodic drinking by respondents was associated with a threefold increase in victimisation and doubling of perpetration of aggression involving alcohol. Heavy episodic drinking by either partner was also associated with drinking being involved in reported aggression.
Conclusions: The experience of intimate-partner aggression in a cross-section of households differs by gender and the involvement of alcohol, and 'counts' of aggressive acts in a population-based survey do not reflect the reality of gender differences. Heavy episodic drinking patterns are associated with more aggression involving alcohol within relationships, and alcohol involvement is associated with increased severity.
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