Intimate partner aggression (IPA) is a serious national health concern that affects an alarming number of individuals and can lead to substantial psychological and physical suffering. The harmful consequences of IPA underscore the need for an in-depth understanding of risk factors that contribute to IPA perpetration. To date, theoretical writings and empirical research have largely focused on a variety of stable and dispositional characteristics that may predispose someone to perpetrate aggression. While research on these factors has been informative, this knowledge does not provide details about the specific circumstances that may prompt an individual to perpetrate IPA. By contrast, situational risk factors that arise in the immediate context of IPA reflect more state-like influences that trigger aggression. Because these factors are more variable and fluctuate according to the situation, they are potentially promising targets for prevention and intervention efforts (e.g. through cognitive and behavioral interventions). Within this realm, two factors in particular appear to play a prominent role in the etiology of IPA: alcohol intoxication and cognitive emotion regulation strategies. The present study is designed to further illuminate the proximal effects of alcohol and the emotion regulatory strategies of anger rumination and reappraisal on IPA perpetration. In contrast to prior correlational work, alcohol consumption and emotion regulatory strategies will be experimentally manipulated to assess their individual and combined effects on IPA, measured both observationally and through self-report. It is expected that both alcohol intoxication and anger rumination will increase IPA perpetration, whereas reappraisal will result in decreased IPA perpetration. Further, intoxication and emotion regulation strategies are expected to have interactive effects on IPA perpetration such that rumination will enhance associations between alcohol intoxication and aggression, whereas reappraisal will attenuate the relationship between alcohol and IPA perpetration. Findings from this study will have direct relevance for understanding important situational risk factors for IPA perpetration, while at the same time providing knowledge that has the potential to inform the development of IPA intervention and prevention strategies.

Public Health Relevance

Intimate partner aggression (IPA) is a significant public health problem, which inflicts both physical and psychological harm to victims and costs the U.S. billions of dollars per year due to healthcare costs and loss of productivity. Research examining etiological factors that contribute to IPA perpetration is needed in order to expand basic knowledge and to inform the development of intervention and prevention strategies. The current project will examine two important risk factors for IPA perpetration, alcohol intoxication and rumination.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Health Services Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
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Urbanas, Diana
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University of Nebraska Lincoln
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Watkins, Laura E; DiLillo, David; Maldonado, Rosalita C (2015) The interactive effects of emotion regulation and alcohol intoxication on lab-based intimate partner aggression. Psychol Addict Behav 29:653-63