Dr Gavan Palk, a forensic psychologist at QUT’s School of Psychology and Counselling and the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Qld (CARRS-Q), said 19 per cent of 186 women aged 18 to 25 surveyed last year said they were involved in aggressive incidents when intoxicated.
In comparison, 26 per cent of 82 men taking part in the same online survey on drinking patterns said they were involved in verbal or physical altercations.
“There are similar levels of involvement in aggressive incidents, including fights,” he said.
Similar research was conducted in the UK and other countries, but Dr Palk found higher rates of violence among young Australian women drinkers.
“Australia has a greater number of large-scale pubs and clubs which are providing a venue for ladette-style behaviour,” he said.
“There have been attempts to reduce the incidences of violence, but over the long term it seems the only thing that works to reduce alcohol-related violence is to reduce the number of drinking hours.”
Dr Palk said the trend of having pre-drinks at home to save money exposed young women to greater harm.
“It doesn’t make them drink less when they go out. In fact, they end up consuming much more alcohol,” he said.
“They are far more at risk of violence and sexual assaults because they’re much more intoxicated.”
Dr Palk, whose research involved in-depth interviews and focus groups, is one of the first experts to study the social motivations behind the rise in drinking among young women.
He said overall young men drank far more than women. However, that gap was closing.
“In the last five years or so, women’s consumption of alcohol has increased more than men. Our survey found around 35 per cent of women had admitted to binge drinking,” he said.
“There were more males binge drinking – about 50 per cent, but that number has decreased slightly.
“There is a rise in young females who equate alcohol and excessive alcohol with fun. They show a willingness to behave how men have traditionally done for 100-odd years.
“Interestingly, young males and females didn’t see women getting drunk as unfeminine. But both sexes thought vomiting, getting in fights and aggressive behaviour as unfeminine.”
Dr Palk will present his research Women, drinking and aggression on a night out: Do girls just wanna have fun? tomorrow (Friday, August 5) at the 2011 APS Forensic Psychology National Conference in Noosa.
Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, media officer, 3138 1150, [email protected]