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The Impact of History of Aggression and Alcohol Use on Aggressive: Responding in the Laboratory

Studies show that most college students consume alcohol during their career with a portion of those students also participating in risky binge drinking. Previous research has also shown that drinking and aggressive behavior may be a problem throughout college students. The current study builds on previous research and looks at alcohol use, past violence, and continued aggressive behavior among male students in a lab setting.

160 male students were recruited between 18-24 years. Researchers used the Alcohol Use Disorder identification Test to asses alcohol use and problems along with the Buss Perry Aggression Questionnaire to measure aggression. Participants also completed a laboratory based behavior test to measure aggression called the Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm (PSAP). This test involved a button-pressing task to earn money while competing against what the participants thought was an “opponent.” This opponent had no impact on the test as the computer program acted in a random matter.

Results showed that those with a history of “high” aggression that also reported “high” alcohol use were more likely to press the aggressive response during the PSAP test. Participants with “low” levels of past physical aggression had no differences in results with differing alcohol use. A surprising finding was those who had history of “low” alcohol use and “low” past aggression responded more aggressively than those with “low” alcohol use and “high” aggression. Findings also showed alcohol use habits may be associated with aggression without provocation if there is a history of aggressive behavior. This study provides information about the interaction between alcohol use and aggression which may be important to discuss with college students who are at risk for risky drinking behaviors.

Take Away: Previous studies show that most college students consume alcohol and that drinking and aggressive behavior may be a problem. The current study builds on previous studies and looks at alcohol use, past violence, and continued aggressive behavior among male students in a lab setting. 160 male students were recruited and took questionnaires about alcohol use and aggression. They then completed a lab test that screened for aggressive tendencies. Results showed that those with “high” alcohol us and a history of “high” aggression were more likely to respond aggressively during the test. Findings also showed that alcohol use habits may be associated with aggression without provocation in those with a history of aggressive behavior. This study provides important information about the interaction between alcohol use and aggression which may be important to discuss with college students who are at risk for risky drinking behaviors.

Ritter, K., Lookatch, S. J., Schmidt, M. R., & Moore, T. M. (2019). The Impact of History of Aggression and Alcohol Use on Aggressive: Responding in the Laboratory. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 13, 117822181988432. doi: 10.1177/1178221819884328

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