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Culture's role on alcohol and violence

WASHINGTON, DC, 2 OCTOBER 2008 Countries with strict social rules and behavioral etiquette such as the United Kingdom may foster drinking cultures characterized by unruly or bad behavior, according to a new report on alcohol and violence released today by International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP). The report lists 11 cultural features that may predict levels of violence such as homicide and spousal abuse.

The report, "Alcohol and Violence: Exploring Patterns and Responses," examines the association between alcohol and violence through the disciplines of anthropology, clinical psychology, human rights law, gender, and public health.

"We need to look more closely at the meaning attached to both drinking and violence in different cultures, without assuming that the one causes the other," writes Anne Fox, PhD, a contributor to the report and founding director of Galahad SMS Ltd. in England.

Dr. Fox writes that the presence of certain cultural features can largely predict levels of homicide, spousal abuse and other forms of violence. Violence-reinforcing cultures tend to share the following features:

  • Cultural support (in media, norms, icons, myths, and so on) for aggression and aggressive solutions;
  • Militaristic readiness and participation in warssocieties that are frequently at war have consistently higher rates of interpersonal violence as well;
  • Glorification of fighters;
  • Violent sports;
  • Corporal and capital punishment;
  • Socialization of male children toward aggression;
  • Belief in malevolent magic;
  • Conspicuous inequality in wealth;
  • A higher than normal proportion of young males in the society;
  • Strong codes of male honorin general, societies and subgroups that actively subscribe to strong codes of honor tend to have higher rates of homicide;
  • A culture of male domination.

In her paper, "Sociocultural Factors that Foster or Inhibit Alcohol-related Violence," Dr. Fox argues that efforts to counteract a "culture of violence" and "the male propensity for aggression" should be channeled toward altering "beliefs about alcohol" and "social responses to violence and aggression."

The report includes other papers including "The Role of Drinking Patterns and Acute Intoxication in Violent Interpersonal Behaviors" which looks at patterns of violence at the individual level. The paper "Working with Culture to Prevent Violence and Reckless Drinking" studies alcohol and violence from a gender perspective and identifies strategies used to respond to analogous social problems. "Practical Responses: Communications Guidelines for First Responders in Cases of Alcohol-related Violence" presents international guidelines for enhanced communication among first responders (police, emergency room staff, social workers) to alcohol-related violence, particularly between the health and law enforcement sectors.


Contact: Carole Zimmerman
International Center for Alcohol Policies

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