In Australia, the impact of alcohol consumption is of growing concern, and the high economic cost and harms associated with alcohol-related violence receive continuing attention from both media and policy makers.
However, the longitudinal relationship between alcohol consumption and violence is unclear, with findings from prospective studies producing mixed results.
Lead Victorian researchers Professor Sheryl Hemphill and Dr Kirsty Balog, from Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) School of Psychology, are investigating the longitudinal relationships between alcohol consumption and violence among young Australians.
The current study utilized Victorian data from the International Youth Development Study to examine longitudinal relationships between alcohol consumption and severe interpersonal violence across the developmental periods of early adolescence to late adolescence/emerging adulthood.
The International Youth Development Study began in 2002 and is a collaborative project between ACU, Deakin University, The University of Melbourne, and the University of Washington, USA.
Professor Hemphill said the study has found that alcohol use during early and mid adolescence can predict violence two years later.
“A relationship between past year alcohol use and violence was found from Year 7 to Year 9 and Year 9 to Year 11. The results for links between heavy episodic drinking and violence were different, with some evidence for reciprocal relationships. However, for both measures of alcohol, some of these relationships no longer remained when covariates such as family conflict and affiliation with antisocial and drug using friends were included in the models,” said Professor Hemphill.
“These findings suggest that risk processes begin in late childhood, or very early adolescence so we need to target common risk factors for violence and alcohol at this time. For heavy episodic drinking and violence, given the reciprocal relationships, efforts to reduce one problem behaviour are likely to reduce the other.”
“Further, the role that the social and family contexts have in influencing the relationships between alcohol use and interpersonal violence should be considered in further research to better inform preventive efforts,” said Professor Hemphill.