Published:  2018-12

Could Alcohol Abuse Drive Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrators’ Psychophysiological Response to Acute Stress?

Authors:  Sara Vitoria-Estruch, Ángel Romero-Martínez, Marisol Lila, Luis Moya-Albiol

Tags:  acute stress, autonomic nervous system, cardiorespiratory variables, impulsivity, intimate partner violence, skin conductance

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Proactively aggressive individuals have been shown to present a different pattern of autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysregulation from that of individuals characterized by reactive violence. Although attempts have been made to classify intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators based on ANS reactivity to acute stress, subsequent studies have failed to replicate this classification. Notably, the proposed classification neglected the role of chronic alcohol abuse in ANS dysregulation and the fact that this dysregulation entails an abnormal stress response. The aim of the present study was to analyze the response profile (psychological state and ANS response) of groups of IPV perpetrators with high (n = 27) and low (n = 33)-risk alcohol use to an acute stressor, compared to controls (n = 35). All IPV perpetrators scored higher on executive dysfunctions and impulsivity and showed larger decreases in positive affect, less satisfaction, and a higher external locus of control after the stressor than controls. IPV perpetrators with low-risk alcohol use had higher skin conductance levels and breathing reactivity than controls, especially during preparatory, task, and recovery periods. This information could help to develop methods for increasing batterers’ behavioral self-regulation, thus decreasing IPV recidivism risk.