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'Drunken Bum' Theory of Wife Beating

NCJ Number
Social Problems Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: (June 1987) Pages: 213-230
G K Kantor; M A Straus
Date Published
18 pages
Using interview data from a nationally representaive sample of 5,159 families, we examine the belief that physical abuse of wives is strongly determined by drunkenness and socioeconomic status.
Our findings show that excessive drinking is associated with higher wife abuse rates, but alcohol use is not an immediate antecedent of violence in the majority of families. The combination of blue-collar status, drinking, and approval of violence is significantly associated with the highest rate of wife abuse. Of the three factors, cultural approval of violence by men against women has the strongest association with wife abuse. Although our results provide support for the drunken bum theory of wife beating, they also demythologize the stereotype because they show that alcohol is far from being a necessary or sufficient cause of wife abuse. (Author abstract modified)