Interpersonal Consequences

Part 4. Race/Ethnic Patterns of Drinking and Domestic Violence

Violence by Race/EthnicityMore recent evidence on the complex relationship between alcohol use and domestic violence comes from a national survey conducted by Caetano and his colleagues (Caetano et al., 2000; 2001). These researchers collected data from both partners in married or cohabiting couples who identified themselves as white (n = 555), black (n = 358), or Hispanic (n = 527). Using items taken from Straus's Conflict Tactics scale, they examined 11 violent behaviors (see table below) that the male partner perpetrated against their female partner or that the female partner committed against the male partner during the past year. A couple was counted as "violent" if either partner reported at least one violent incident. Each partner was also classified according to a five-level quantity-frequency measure of alcohol use over the previous 12 months: (1) Abstainer; (2) Infrequent (less than once a month; fewer than five drinks at a sitting); (3) Less Frequent (1-3 times a month); (4) Frequent (at least once a week); (5) Frequent heavy drinker (at least once a week and has five or more drinks at a sitting). Because relatively few women fell in the two highest drinking levels, these categories were combined in the analyses of drinking by female partners.

As shown in the graph on the right, Caetano found that the overall rate of violence in these intimate relationships was significantly higher in black couples than in the other two race/ethnic groups. Another surprising finding was that the rate of female-to-male violence was somewhat higher than male-to-female violence. However, as shown in the table with more detailed findings below, most of these violent acts by women involved pushing, shoving, or throwing something rather than more severe acts such as beating up or choking their partner. Nonetheless, it is clear that domestic violence is relatively widespread among both women and men in intimate relationships.

Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence by Type of Violent Event and Race/Ethnicity

 

Male to Female Violence (%)

Female to Male Violence (%)

Violent Act

White

Black

Hispanic

X2

White

Black

Hispanic

X2

Throw something

  4.1

  5.4

  5.8

  1.5

  9.5

  22.1

  13.0

  11.5**

Push, shove, grab

  9.4

  19.7

  13.0

  9.3*

  10.2

  21.3

  13.0

  7.4*

Slap

  1.5

  7.8

  5.5

  9.3*

  4.3

  9.7

  6.4

  4.0

Kick, bite, hit

  0.7

  4.1

  2.6

 9.4**

  2.7

  9.9

  5.0

  6.9*

Hit with something

  0.9

  5.1

  4.2

 15.9***

  3.8

  15.8

  7.5

  16.0***

Beat up

  0.3

  1.4

  2.2

  4.9

  0.0

  2.1

  1.3

  16.5***

Choke

  0.4

  2.7

  1.9

  7.4*

  0.1

  1.4

  0.7

  4.3

Burn

  0.4

  0.2

  0.0

  2.6

  0.0

  1.2

  0.2

  3.0

Force sex  

 0.5

  1.7

  1.9

  5.5

  0.4

  2.9

  1.0

  6.6*

Threaten with knife/gun

  0.4

  0.6

  0.7

  0.7

  0.1

  3.1

  0.9

  9.8**

Use knife/gun

  0.3

  0.2

  0.4

  0.3

  0.0

  0.9

  0.5

  7.3*

Source:  Caetano et al. 2001 (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-1/58-65.htm)

X2= chi squared. The chi square test is the statistical technique used to determine the probability value or p value.
*p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.

NOTE: Rates of female-perpetrated events were generally higher than the rates for comparable male-perpetrated events, independent of ethnicity. It should be noted, however, that because this is a general household sample of couples, and not a clinical sample in which severe cases of violence are found.  The proportion of couples reporting the most severe types of violence is relatively small.

What happens when we add alcohol to this picture? The following two graphs show how the typical drinking behavior of the perpetrator, either male or female, relates to intimate partner violence for white, black, and Hispanic couples. A consistent pattern in both analyses is that violent incidents are especially likely to occur in black couples only when the perpetrator is a frequent or frequent-heavy drinker. Among black couples who are abstainers or relatively less frequent drinkers, rates of violence toward women or men are no different than the corresponding rates in white or Hispanic couples. Therefore, Caetano et al. highlight a special problem in black couples, where frequent and heavy alcohol use by either partner appears to increase the risk of violence. As noted earlier, this problem undoubtedly has more to do with economic stress in black couples and racial inequality in U.S. society than it does with any distinctive effects of alcohol among African American men and women.

Alcohol Use and Male-to-Female ViolenceAlcohol Use and Female-to-Male Violence
 
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