Research Associate Professor, Psychology
Sexual assault; partner violence; women’s sexual behavior; college drinking.
Testa | Derrick
The acute effects of marijuana use within couples will be examined as a way of understanding the potential role of marijuana in understanding partner aggression, both immediately after use, and as it develops over time.
Although marijuana is commonly believed to suppress aggression, surveys consistently reveal positive associations between marijuana use and perpetration of intimate partner violence. However, it is not known whether on a proximal, event level marijuana use results in affective, cognitive, or behavioral effects consistent with partner aggression. The current study addresses this gap with a 30 day, ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study of marijuana use and couple functioning in a sample of young couples in which one or both partners use marijuana. Couples will be followed for one year, to determine whether marijuana use or its immediate consequence influence relationship functioning and stability over time. Dr.Testa's co-investigators include Drs. Jaye Derrick, Kenneth Leonard of RIA, and Lorraine Collins of the School of Public Health and Health Professions. Funded by a grant of $1,862,243 from NIDA, 2013-2017.
Testa | Leonard
The role of college men’s alcohol use in sexual aggression perpetration will be examined using 1) a prospective survey study over five semesters and 2) a 56-day daily report study considering whether drinking episodes increase the odds of subsequent sexual aggression.
In this project, Dr. Testa and colleagues will consider the impact of men’s alcohol consumption on their perpetration of sexual aggression. Two studies of college freshman males are being conducted following recruitment of 1,850 participants from two entering cohorts of male freshmen. In the first study, web-based, prospective survey methods will be used to examine whether the frequency of heavy episodic drinking predicts subsequent sexual aggression over the first five semesters of college. In a second study, a subsample of 324 men will make eight weeks of daily reports on drinking and sexual behavior using interactive voice response (IVR) technology. It is hypothesized that the relationship between alcohol use and sexual aggression is moderated by several individual differences variables, such as sex-related alcohol expectancies, hostile masculinity, and impersonal sexuality. These moderators will be considered both at the distal, prospective level and also at the proximal, daily level. Findings from the two studies are expected to provide significant new knowledge about the role of alcohol in men’s perpetration of sexual aggression and aid in the development of efficacious sexual aggression prevention programs. Funded with a grant of $2,078,526 from NIAAA, 2010-2015.
Testa | Leonard
Two studies considered the acute effects of alcohol use within couples on conflict and aggression: 1) an experimental alcohol administration study using a conflict resolution paradigm and 2) a 56-day daily diary study examining whether drinking episodes increase the odds of subsequent partner aggression.
In this study, Dr. Testa is investigating whether acute alcohol consumption is a causal factor in episodes of relationship conflict and aggression among young married and cohabiting couples. First, an experimental study will examine the effects of alcohol - administered independently to male and female partners - on communication behaviors and verbal aggression within a conflict resolution paradigm. Second, a daily diary study conducted over eight weeks will be used to determine if the likelihood of relationship conflict or aggression occurring on a given day is increased when either the man, the woman, or both have consumed alcohol earlier that day. This study is unique in that it considers women's drinking, in addition to men's drinking, as a potential contributor to relationship conflict and aggression; the daily diary study promises to be the first to examine daily alcohol-relationship conflict in a non-clinical sample, thereby addressing the importance of alcohol in naturally occurring relationship conflict; and lastly, both studies will consider the role of potential moderating variables, including propensity toward aggression, behavioral self-control and alcohol expectancies. This research is expected to provide important insight into the causal mechanisms underlying the alcohol-intimate partner aggression relationship. Funded with a grant of $1,938,596 from NIAAA, 2007-2012.
In this study, Dr.
Leonard is examining heavy drinking, cognitive functioning, and
marital satisfaction and conflict in 300 couples over a three-year
time period. Couples in which the husband, wife, both, or neither
are frequent heavy drinkers will be recruited. Researchers will
test whether self-regulation skills, in conjunction with heavy
drinking, smoking, and other health issues, influence marital
satisfaction, marital stability, and marital conflict. Funded by an
award of $2,635,812 from NIAAA, 2007-2012.
Parks | Testa | Dearing
Researchers are developing short video clips of potential assault scenarios to help women better understand the nonverbal cues that could indicate the risk of sexual assault.
Prior research suggests that a woman’s ability to perceive or interpret cues about a potential sexual assault can be influenced by alcohol consumption and her history of prior assault. In the past, research designed to assess deficits in women’s ability to perceive risk cues for sexual assault have utilized written and audio vignettes. In this study, Dr. Kathleen A. Parks and colleagues are developing video vignettes, that will include nonverbal (e.g. facial expressions) risk cues that can not be presented in the more traditional written and audio vignettes. The hope is that these video vignettes, by including nonverbal, verbal, and environmental risk cues, will provide a more realistic depiction of a sexual assault scenario. The primary goal of developing more realistic scenarios with these imbedded risk cues is to be able to more accurately assess women’s ability to perceive risks for sexual assault during heterosexual drinking situations. Development and validation of this measure will occur through a rigorous, multi-method process involving five small studies. These include the development of the vignette scripts through focus groups, individual, and expert feedback, and validation of the different levels (ambiguous, low and high risk) of risk cues, through presentation to women during sober and moderate alcohol conditions. Future goals include the development of unique prevention programs using the video vignette measure as a training tool for improving women’s risk perception, thereby reducing sexual assault risk. Funded by a grant of $416,063 from NIAAA, 2011-2013.