Rates of physical and psychological aggression among couples increased six to eight-fold at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, according to a new study.
The study led by Georgia State University (GSU) researchers showed that physical aggression increased from two acts per year before the pandemic to 15 acts per year after lockdowns were imposed due to Covid-19. Psychological aggression increased from 16 acts per year to 96 acts per year.
The findings indicate that stress related to the pandemic was strongly associated with perpetration of intimate partner aggression.
While rates of intimate partner aggression remained high among heavy drinkers, it was non-heavy drinkers who were most affected by Covid-related stress. The association between physical aggression after the onset of the pandemic and Covid-19 stress was apparent only in people who consumed fewer drinks per day.
“If you think about it, that (increase) represents an enormous shift in people’s day-to-day lives,” said lead author Dominic Parrott, Professor of Psychology and Director of the GSU’s Center for Research on Interpersonal Violence.
“It’s the difference between having a bad fight with your partner once a month versus twice a week,” Parrott added.
The study published in the journal Psychology of Violence recruited 510 participants in April 2020 — during the height of shelter-in-place restrictions across the US — and asked them questions related to the period prior to and after the onset of Covid-19 in their community.
“There’s data showing that after natural disasters, for example, when basic resources are lost and people have to live in close proximity, intimate partner violence goes up. Our fundamental aim was to document what was happening as a result of the pandemic,” Parrott said.
Policies designed to alleviate negative impacts of the pandemic — such as economic relief packages or policies that provide increased access to childcare and healthcare — may in turn reduce stress and perpetration of intimate partner aggression.
In addition, broad implementation of public health policies aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus may also mitigate physical and psychological aggression, the researchers said.