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Sons of Absent or Abusive Fathers May Pick More Bar Fights: Survey

FRIDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Men whose fathers were abusive or absent are more likely to get into bar fights, a new study reveals.

These findings about alcohol-related aggression are from a survey of 137 men, aged 18 to 25, in Australia, and appear online in advance of publication in the September print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Alcohol affects people in a number of predictable ways that make it more likely that they will become involved in aggressive incidents," study corresponding author Peter Miller, an associate professor of psychology at Deakin University in Australia, said in a journal news release.

"They become focused on the moment, have poorer decision-making skills and interpret social situations incorrectly, all of which mean they are more likely to be both perpetrators and victims of violence," Miller said.

Samantha Wells, a scientist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada who was not involved in the study, commented on the results.

"These findings may further explain the link between masculinity and male violence; that is, boys who experience violence in the home at the hands of their fathers may react by embracing extreme versions of masculinity as a way of gaining a sense of power," Wells said in the news release.

"In this way, the cycle of violence continues," she said. "But what is important here is the suggestion that the cycle of violence extends into social behavior in a bar setting. This finding confirms that male aggression in bars is not simply 'boys being boys' -- it's troubled boys being antisocial and harming others."

Study author Miller said these findings could help doctors and other health professionals identify and help men who are more likely to become aggressive when they drink.

For the study, the researchers used the term "negative fathering" to describe an abusive or absent relationship to the child.

"The terms we use are: indifference, so lack of emotional attachment or concern for the child; abuse, noted as both verbal and physical -- for example, shaming or belittling the child, being verbally aggressive or physically violent, such as hitting, punching and spanking; and over-control, an authoritarian relationship characterized by high expectations of conformity and compliance to parental rules and directions while allowing little open dialogue between parent and child," Miller said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on child abuse.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, April 16, 2013

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