There is a complex statistical relationship between alcohol and violence, mediated by personality, expectancy, and situational and sociocultural factors.
- Norms and patterns surrounding alcohol and violence play a role in the relationship between the two.
- Cultures in which alcohol is well integrated into society (e.g., France, Italy, and Spain) have lower rates of violence associated with alcohol than do cultures in which alcohol is less integrated into everyday life (e.g., Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States).
- Violence is more likely to involve drinking patterns such as extreme or “binge” drinking and high-volume consumption.
- The relationship of alcohol to violence is strongest in societies that condone violent behavior.
Certain drinking patterns and violence may share common risk factors.
- Genetic and temperamental traits, antisocial personality disorder, parental modeling of heavy drinking and aggression, and poor interpersonal relations have been identified as predictors of both violence and harmful drinking.
- Young men are most likely to drink heavily and also most likely to engage in aggressive and violent behavior.
- Group violence is often associated with delinquency (e.g., sports hooliganism and gangs).
- Similar neuropharmacological mechanisms may underlie both the action of alcohol on the central nervous system and some correlates of violent behavior.
A significant proportion of violent crimes and offenses involves alcohol, but the causal relationship remains unclear.
- Reports of alcohol intake at the time of an offense may indicate simply that offenders and victims consume alcohol, not that alcohol caused offenders to commit violent acts.
- Intimate partner violence, sexual assaults, and suicide are more frequently reported to involve some use of alcohol—especially heavy drinking.
- Assaults (particularly sexual assaults) in which people who do not know each other well are more likely to involve alcohol.
Successful prevention of violence must address a range of factors and contexts.
- Certain modifications to drinking environments can reduce the incidence of violence involving alcohol.
- Strategies that target violent behavior can also be effective, including early identification of risk factors and tendencies among aggressive individuals.
- Health and other professionals (e.g., counselors and social workers) can be trained to recognize and address violent behavior and alcohol problems.
- Improved anger management and communication skills can be helpful in reducing the risk for violent behavior.
- Reducing the prevalence of harmful drinking can help minimize risk in this and many other areas of potential harm.