Psychology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor David DiLillo. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Laura E. Watkins


Intimate partner aggression (IPA) is a serious national health concern that affects an alarming number of individuals and can lead to substantial psychological and physical suffering. Situational risk factors that arise in the immediate context of IPA reflect state-like influences that trigger aggression. Because these factors are more variable and fluctuate according to the situation, they are potentially promising targets for prevention and intervention efforts (e.g., through cognitive and behavioral interventions). Within this realm, two factors in particular appear to play a prominent role in the etiology of IPA: alcohol intoxication and cognitive emotion regulation strategies. In contrast to prior correlational work, the present study experimentally manipulated alcohol consumption and emotion regulatory strategies to assess their individual and combined effects on IPA, which was measured both observationally and through self-report. It was expected that both alcohol intoxication and anger rumination would increase IPA perpetration, whereas reappraisal would result in decreased IPA perpetration. Further, intoxication and emotion regulation strategies were expected to have interactive effects on IPA perpetration such that rumination would enhance associations between alcohol intoxication and aggression, whereas reappraisal would attenuate the relationship between alcohol and IPA perpetration. Hypotheses for the study were partially supported. Findings show that participants in the alcohol condition generally displayed greater IPA than participants in the placebo condition. Emotion regulation strategy condition was not found to affect IPA. When examining only the effects of alcohol and emotion regulation strategy condition, emotion strategy use did not moderate the relationship between alcohol intoxication and IPA. However, alcohol and emotion regulation strategy conditions were found to interact with trait levels of rumination and reappraisal to predict IPA. The implications of these results, future directions for research, and implications for IPA intervention and prevention strategies are discussed.

Adviser: David DiLillo