Introduction Higher rates of aggression have been described among intimate partners who are heavy drinkers. Drinking at the time of aggressive incidents, and gender differences in the experience of intimate partner aggression in the general population are less well understood.
Methods Alcohol consumption, partner's alcohol consumption, and details of the most severe incident of partner aggression in the past 2 years were reported in a national survey of 18–70 year olds (n=1925). Mean levels of aggression, 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%. Men and women reported similar prevalence of victimisation and perpetration of aggression (11%–15%). Alcohol was involved in more than a quarter of incidents, and reported more often by women than men, particularly male-only drinking when the respondent was victimised. Women reported more severity, anger and fear accompanying victimisation than men, and these scores differed significantly by involvement of alcohol. Heavy episodic drinking by respondents was associated with a threefold increase in victimisation involving alcohol, and doubling of perpetration of aggression involving alcohol.
Conclusion In a cross-section of households, “counts” of aggressive acts do not reflect the reality of gender differences. The frequency of heavy drinking episodes is associated with the occurrence of aggression involving alcohol within relationships, and the involvement of alcohol in an incident of aggression is associated with increased severity, fear and anger particularly for women.
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