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Alcohol-Related Aggression during the College Years: Theories, Risk Factors and Policy Implications

Peter R. Giancola

Objective: The purpose of this article is to present an overview of the research literature on alcohol-related aggression with a focus on college students. Method: Data from both survey studies and experimental laboratory investigations conducted on college students are reviewed. Various methodological approaches to studying the alcohol-aggression relation, and their associated limitations, are then presented and discussed. Results: The literature indicates that alcohol consumption facilitates aggressive behavior and increases the risk of being the victim of a violent act, particularly in heavy drinkers. Results from these studies are then placed into a context by reviewing 12 influential theories of aggression and alcohol-related aggression. On the basis of these theories and empirical data, a preliminary risk profile is presented to help identify which factors are likely to be important in predicting who will and who will not become aggressive after drinking alcohol. Conclusions: Although much research is still needed to elucidate the intricate causes of alcohol-related aggression, current prevention efforts might focus on modifying key risk factors such as poor cognitive functioning and inaccurate expectations about the effects of alcohol. Other prevention efforts directed specifically at college students might focus on helping them to identify risky situations that might facilitate the expression of intoxicated aggression. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 129-139, 2002)