Picture Credit: ANI/RepresentativeImage
A new study led by Georgia State University researchers showed that the rates of physical and psychological aggression among couples increased dramatically after the adoption of shelter-in-place regulations during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the study, the pandemic led to a six-to-eightfold increase in the incidence of intimate partner assault across the United States. When shelter-in-place restrictions were implemented, physical aggressiveness jumped from two acts per year before the pandemic to 15 actions per year. The number of acts of psychological assault increased from 16 to 96 every year.
The findings show that pandemic-related stress was highly linked to the perpetration of intimate relationship aggression, even among people who were thought to be at low risk.
The study's lead author, Dominic Parrott, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Research on Interpersonal Violence, stated, "If you think about it, that [increase] indicates a huge shift in people's day-to-day lives." "It's the difference between having a bad argument once a month vs twice a week with your partner."
The study, published in the journal Psychology of Violence, is one of the first to show an increase in the perpetration of intimate partner aggression in local communities following the outbreak of the pandemic.
Researchers gathered 510 people in April 2020, at the height of the country's shelter-in-place restrictions, and asked them questions about the time leading up to and following the commencement of COVID-19 in their area. Participants were asked about COVID-19 stresses, physical and psychological aggressiveness toward their partner, and frequent drinking, which is known to enhance aggression, among other things. A sexual or gender minority was identified by about half of the participants.
"People were suddenly under a great deal of stress, and we were fairly clear that this was leading to an increase in hostility and violence," Parrott said. "There is evidence that intimate partner violence increases after natural disasters when basic resources are destroyed and individuals are forced to live in close quarters. Our main goal was to record what was going on as a result of the pandemic."
While heavy drinkers' rates of intimate relationship aggression remained high, COVID-related stress was felt most strongly by non-heavy drinkers. In fact, the link between physical violence and COVID-19 stress after the outbreak was only visible in persons who consumed fewer drinks per day. These data imply that focusing on acute and chronic stress in couples is crucial regardless of their average alcohol intake.
The study's authors suggest that policies aimed at mitigating the pandemic's negative effects, such as economic relief packages or policies that promote access to childcare and healthcare, may lower stress and perpetuate intimate partner aggression. Furthermore, widespread implementation of public health policies focused at preventing the virus's spread may reduce physical and psychological aggressiveness.
"Most people wouldn't think of intimate partner violence as a reason to provide economic relief, but our findings suggest it has the potential to be an effective measure," Parrott said. "The statistics also reveal that in a crisis situation, conventional high-risk groups are not the only ones at danger of perpetrating violence. The pandemic's stress is so widespread and pervasive that it necessitates initiatives or policies that affect large groups of people." The authors believe that as-needed text-messaging therapies could be particularly effective during pandemics when social distance is required.
With inputs from ANI