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An Investigation of Gender Differences in Alcohol-Related Aggression

Peter R. Giancola, Amos Zeichner

Objective: The majority of the research on alcohol-related aggression has been conducted on men. This bias has persisted despite mounting evidence indicating gender differences in aggression. As such, the purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in alcohol-related aggression. Method: Subjects were 64 men and 64 women who competed against either male or female fictitious opponents on a modified version of the Taylor aggression paradigm in which electric shocks were received from and administered to a fictitious opponent during a competitive task. Aggression was operationalized as the intensity and duration of the shocks selected by the subjects. Subjects were assigned to either an alcohol, a placebo or a sober group. Results: Alcohol increased both shock intensity and duration in men; however, it only increased shock duration in women. Men behaved more aggressively toward men, whereas women displayed equal levels of aggression toward both genders. Alcohol expectancies did not appear to have an effect on aggressive behavior for either gender. Conclusions: The findings of this investigation indicate that alcohol differentially affects aggressive responding in men and women. It is suggested that men are likely to express alcohol-related aggression in direct (shock intensity) and indirect (shock duration) forms, whereas women are most likely to use indirect forms (shock duration). (J. Stud. Alcohol 56: 573-579, 1995)