Study to Examine Drinking and Sexual Aggression

By Kathleen Weaver

Release Date: October 6, 2010


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Most of what we know about alcohol and sexual aggression is based on information obtained from female victims.

A new research study announced today at the University at Buffalo will focus on drinking and sexually aggressive behavior from the male perspective. Maria Testa, PhD, is the lead investigator on the study and a senior research scientist at UB's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).

"Rates of sexual victimization and perpetration among college students are disturbingly high nationwide," according to Testa. "Furthermore, men's alcohol consumption and heavy drinking patterns are present in a large proportion of incidents of sexual victimization and aggression among young college students. In order to learn more about what is happening and why, we will talk to young college men."

The study is supported by a $2 million award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

More than 1,800 college freshmen males will be recruited to participate across the first five semesters of their college experience. To address the gap in knowledge about alcohol-drinking perpetrators, two innovative methods will be employed.

In the first, a web-based survey method will examine whether heavy drinking actually predicts sexual aggression. In the second, interactive voice response (IVR) technology will be used to examine whether sexually aggressive behavior occurs during or immediately after drinking. This component will include a subsample of approximately 300 young men and use IVR to compile daily reports on drinking and sexual behavior over eight weeks.

Testa suspects that the relationship between alcohol use and sexual aggression may be influenced by sex-related alcohol expectancies, hostile masculinity, impersonal sexuality and other beliefs and behaviors. She will be examining these variables for their current and future impact.

Testa is an expert on the association between alcohol and physical and sexual aggression and, in particular, on how women's alcohol use increases their vulnerability to sexual assault. She is a Buffalo native who earned her doctorate in social psychology at the University at Buffalo and has been at the Research Institute on Addictions since 1989.

Collaborating on this study are Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, RIA senior research scientist, research professor and vice chair for research in UB's Department of Psychiatry and research professor in the Department of Psychology; and Kathleen A. Parks, PhD, RIA senior research scientist.

The Research Institute on Addictions has been a national leader in the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the University at Buffalo since 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.