Over-Arousal as a Mechanism between Alcohol and Intimate Partner Violence

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): We believe that alcohol use is related to the increase in frequency and severity of IPV through a process of over-arousal resulting from the cortically and psycho physiological arousing effects of alcohol during the ascending limb of intoxication and at peak BAC compounded by the unique behavioral and affective patterns of violent couples. We hypothesize that distressed violent (DV) partners will have greater difficulty regulating emotion in response to evocative partner stimuli under the influence of alcohol compared to distressed nonviolent (DNV) partners. As such, this study will utilize electroencephalography (EEG), psychophysiology and pupillary response measures to investigate the effects of alcohol on the ability to regulate emotional arousal when viewing evocative partner stimuli in distressed violent (DV) partners compared to distressed nonviolent (DNV) partners. One partner from each DV couple will be pseudo-randomly selected and yoked to a DNV partner of the same sex and comparable relationship distress for participation in the experiment. To test the overall hypothesis that over-arousal is a mechanism through which alcohol is associated with increases in the frequency and severity of IPV, the selected partners will participate in a counter-balanced placebo session and alcohol administration session during which EEG, psychophysiology and pupillary response measurements of arousal will be collected during an emotion regulation task. The study is comprised of one Stimuli Acquisition Session and two Emotion-Regulation Sessions. During the Stimuli Acquisition Session, partner stimuli for use in the emotion-regulation task will be acquired through a video-taped discussion of a disagreement via the researcher facilitated Couple's Problem Inventory (CPI). Segments of the videos will be selected where the DV and DNV partners display Contempt, Belligerence, Criticism, and Defensiveness, Stonewalling and neutral behaviors for presentation to the partner during the emotion regulation task. The selected partners (DV, DNV) will return to the laboratory on two separate occasions for the completion of the Emotion-Regulation Sessions of the study. Participants will consume either an alcohol beverage or placebo beverage (counter-balanced alcohol and placebo conditions) and complete the emotion-regulation task during which evocative and neutral stimulus clips will be shown. The data will be analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA with a between-subjects factor. We expect that DV partners will experience significantly greater arousal than DNV partners during evocative stimuli. We also expect that DV partners will experience greater difficulty regulating emotion during evocative stimuli than DNV partners and that this effect will be compounded during alcohol administration. Findings from this study will provide firm evidence that alcohol is associated with IPV a mechanism of over-arousal. Furthermore, these are processes that are amenable to novel therapeutic intervention via methods such as biofeedback and neurofeedback to increase behavioral flexibility and reduce drinking and IPV in DV couples.
Effective start/end date9/25/158/31/18


  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $237,454.00
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $187,617.00


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