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Situational Factors in the Relationship Between Alcohol and Crime

NCJ Number
P M Roman
Date Published
17 pages
Studies of empirical relationships between situational contexts of drinking and occurrence of criminal behavior are needed to explain the relationship between alcohol and crime.
In spite of the popular assumption of the causal relationship between alcohol abuse and crime, the number of drinking events known to be concomitant with criminal behavior is very small relative to the total number of drinking events. However, ethanol consumption is disinhibiting and usually occurs in normative circumstances in which controls are relaxed in anticipation of the disinhibition. This often results in a range of forms of aggression that increase in frequency with the blood alcohol concentration obtained. Some proportion of these deviant acts come to be defined as criminal through a series of systematic social reactions. Therefore, empirical research should be done on the relationship between anomie (the absence of structures to elicit sanctions against aggressive acts) and excessive drinking and between anomie and crime. Such research would probably reveal anomie to facilitate the occurrence of aggression concomitant with alcohol consumption. The content of normative structures vis-a-vis aggressive behavior and alcohol consumption should also be studied, since it interacts with the degree of anomie, with the effects of normative content either muted or accentuated by the degree of normative structure in particular situations. Several examples are given of drinking environments relative to the potential for aggressive behavior which is subsequently translated into criminal behavior, and references are included.