Triggers for alcohol-related violence in young male offenders


Mary McMurran, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Sir Colin Campbell Building, Triumph Road, Nottingham NG7 2TU, UK (e-mail:


Purpose. Improving the effectiveness of offender treatment programmes is important and one approach is to attend to their content. The aim here was to identify triggers to alcohol-related violence to inform the development of programmes to treat this problem.

Method. Information from 149 young male offenders’ accounts of incidents of alcohol-related violence was studied using thematic analysis.

Results. Sixteen triggers for violence were identified and these were organized into six themes: (1) being offended by someone, (2) seeing an opportunity for material gain, (3) seeing others in need of help, (4) perception of threat, (5) distress, and (6) wanting a fight.

Discussion. The implications of the results for developing treatments for alcohol-related violence are presented. First, identifying triggers should be part of the treatment programme and ways of avoiding triggers should be addressed. Second, changing values, specifically hypermasculine and antisocial values, could attenuate the rewards signalled by the triggers. Third, methods of reducing the potency of triggers would be of value and would include addressing issues of need for respect and responses to perceived disrespect. Fourth, non-violent ways of helping people who are in trouble need to be introduced. Fifth, coping with threat cues through distraction and increasing self-awareness would reduce the effects of ‘alcohol myopia’. Sixth, seeking fights for excitement could be reduced by examining the costs through motivational procedures. Finally, and self-evidently, a primary target of treatment programmes to reduce alcohol-related violence should be to reduce the level and frequency of alcohol intoxication.