Research shows that domestic violence increases during times of major sporting events such as the world cup. Reasons that are often cited include increased tension, investment in the outcome, disappointment, adrenaline, and intoxication. https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/18/football/world-cup-domestic-violence-united-kingdom-campaign-trnd/index.html.
From our perspective, this is best understood from attachment and rejection theory perspectives.
Classic domestic violence behaviors are often associated with adults who have an affectively-oriented attachment structure, or a “C” pattern. These patterns tend to rely, to one degree or another, on affective information, rather than cognitive information to guide thoughts and behavior. That is, feelings, especially “negative feelings” arising in the mind-body provide the neural system with preferred information, and intense feelings tend to drive intense thoughts and behaviors. Intense feeling can override cognitive information, such as the thought “I should control my feelings because if I don’t I might do something I will regret.” (Crittenden, Patricia M., and Spieker, Susan, J., (2018), Can attachment inform decision-making in child protection and forensic settings?, Infant Mental Health Journal, 39:6, 625-641.)
Rejection theory perspective
From a social science rejection theory perspective, attachment C-patterns can involve the increased likelihood of angry responses to relationship threats, increased history of relationship abuse, increased feelings of jealousy, a tendency to perceive partners in a negative light, and struggle between wanting and avoiding intimacy. These are all elements common to people who tend to be sensitive to rejection and respond with aggression. There are two types of relational rejections that are important to understand. Perceived low relational evaluation: a person may feel rejected when their perceived relational evaluation is not as high as they desire (even though they may recognize they are valued, liked, or accepted). Relational devaluation: a person may feel particularly rejected when they experience a subjective, sudden and dramatic devaluation in a relationship. (Leary, Mark R., Twenge. Jean M., Quinlivan, Erin, (2006), Interpersonal rejection as a determinate of anger and aggression, Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10:2, 111-132.
As noted in the CNN article above, expectations and the game’s outcome can make a difference. A 2010 British study found that violence spiked during the World Cup tournament only if the English team won or lost, not if the game ended in a draw. In a 2015 British study, violence spiked if expectations were high –either because of who was playing, where the games was played or because of the significance of the match.
Putting the data and theory together. We can see that when a person evaluates their own self-worth based on the performance of a sporting team, and when they have an affective-oriented personality structure, they may be more susceptible to act upon intense feelings and less able to manage those feelings whether the team wins or loses, and/or if their expectation for the game outcome is set too high.
What can be done?
Armed with foreknowledge about the risks, people with partners who tend to use attachment C-pattern behaviors (or people who tend to exhibit difficulty controlling their emotions and who use coercive control behaviors) can anticipate and be proactive. The studies suggest people can help put the games in a healthy context, provide healthy outlets to let off steam, be mindful to eat healthy food and moderate alcohol consumption, and keep a focus on positive places, people, events and things that elicit positive rather than negative feelings. For partners of these people, they can be be mindful about other potential relational challenges and rejections: they can be careful to avoid bringing up difficult issues, put off sensitive topics, redirect people whose behavior is escalating, or if sensitive issues cannot be avoided address them in a structured way or with helpful third parties present.
CSI perspective on solutions
From a longer term perspective, it may be helpful to work with their partners to develop a good set of skills for:
- Managing emotions, such as by recognizing and labeling emotions and feelings
- Learning to accept and talk about feelings
- Develop mindfulness techniques
- Partners may want to model such techniques and engage in practices like yoga and exercise to encourage partners to do the same
Lawyers and judges do the same thing in court cases. They can support partners who are struggling to manage their partner/co-parent’s coercive behaviors. A few simple examples include:
- Being respectful to all parties even as boundaries are held
- Modeling affect management in client counseling sessions or on the bench (not allowing your own emotions to rage)
- Enunciating behavioral expectations in a non-judgmental and non-humiliating way
- Encouraging people who appear to use coercive strategies to engage in known emotion management activities, and then demonstrate to the court their efforts to learn and apply learned skills
Mark Baumann copyright 2019