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Covid Pandemic Resulted In Eightfold Increase In Intimate Partner Aggression

Psychological aggression increased from 16 acts per year to 96 acts per year.

Surprisingly, physical aggression was most apparent among individuals considered at low risk. COVID-related stress affected non-heavy drinkers more than heavy drinkers.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : August 19, 2021 4:30 PM IST

Are you arguing or fighting a lot with your partner these days? You're not alone. While the lockdown may have helped reduced the spread of COVID-19, it has led to an increase in stress and intimate partner violence. With couples spending more time together at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the rates of physical and psychological aggression among them have increased significantly, revealed a new study led by Georgia State University researchers.

According to the study, there has been a six-to-eightfold increase in rates of intimate partner aggression across the US following the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical aggression increased from two acts per year before the pandemic to 15 acts per year after the implementation of shelter-in-place restrictions, while psychological aggression increased from 16 acts per year to 96 acts per year it said.

Stress related to the pandemic apparently led to the increase in perpetration of intimate partner aggression, suggested the study published in the journal Psychology of Violence.

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"People were suddenly under an enormous amount of stress, and we felt relatively certain that this was increasing aggression and violence," said the study's lead author Dominic Parrott, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Research on Interpersonal Violence, as quoted by Science Daily.

COVID-related stress affected non-heavy drinkers more

Surprisingly, physical aggression was most apparent among individuals considered at low risk. Heavy drinking is known to facilitate aggression among couples. Although the rates of intimate partner aggression remained high among heavy drinkers, non-heavy drinkers were the ones most affected by COVID-related stress, the study said.

In fact, the researchers found stronger association between physical aggression after the onset of the pandemic and COVID-19 stress in people who consumed fewer drinks per day.

Under normal circumstances, non-heavy drinkers may be able to prevent stress from affecting their relationships, but it appears to change in the extreme events of the pandemic. "Pandemic stress didn't really tip the scales towards violence among heavy drinkers, but for non-heavy drinkers, all bets were off," Parrott was quoted as saying.

The study findings suggest that focussing on couples' stress is critical, irrespective of their drinking habits.

How to reduce stress and perpetration of intimate partner aggression

The study authors suggested some ways that can help reduce stress and perpetration of intimate partner aggression. These include designing policies to alleviate negative impacts of the pandemic -- such as economic relief packages or increasing access to childcare and healthcare.

Intimate partner violence may not be considered a strong reason to offer an economic relief package, but Parrott noted that their data suggest that it has potential to be an effective measure for reducing Covid-19 stress and rates of intimate partner aggression.

Further, they believe broad implementation of public health policies aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus may also mitigate physical and psychological aggression.

The stress of the pandemic is so profound and so ubiquitous that you need interventions or policies that hit big swaths of the population, Parrott added.

Earlier, a University of California study had also highlighted that extra stress during the COVID-19 pandemic caused by income loss and lack of ability to pay for housing and food has exacerbated the often silent epidemic of intimate partner violence. The study was published in American Behavioral Scientist in February 2021.

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