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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • Aggression;
  • Anger

Background The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of trait anger on alcohol-related aggression in men and women.

Methods Subjects were 204 healthy social drinkers (111 men and 93 women) between 21 and 35 years of age. Trait anger was measured using the Spielberger Trait Anger Scale. After the consumption of either an alcohol or a placebo beverage, subjects were tested on a modified version of the Taylor Aggression Paradigm in which mild electric shocks were received from and administered to a fictitious opponent during a competitive task. Aggressive behavior was operationalized as the shock intensities administered to the fictitious opponent under conditions of low and high provocation.

Results Of all of the variables, provocation was the strongest elicitor of aggression. Overall, anger was positively related to aggression for all subjects. However, the central finding of this study was that alcohol was more likely to increase aggression for persons, particularly men, with higher, as opposed to lower, levels of trait anger.

Conclusions The results show that alcohol consumption does not increase aggression for all persons and in all situations. A continuing goal for future research in this area is to identify which individual difference and which contextual factors are most important in determining who will and who will not behave in an aggressive manner when intoxicated.