The Persistence of Neighborhood Disadvantage: An Experimental Investigation of Alcohol and Later Physical Aggression

Volkan Topalli, Peter R. Giancola, Ralph E. Tarter, Monica Swahn, Michelle M. Martel, Aaron J. Godlaski, K. Todd Mccoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This research examined the combined impact of alcohol and previous experience growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood on aggression in a laboratory setting. Participants were 505 young adult social drinkers between 21 and 35 years of age who completed a retrospective measure of neighborhood disadvantage and then participated in an experimental procedure, where they either consumed an alcohol or placebo beverage. They were subsequently tested on a laboratory aggression task in which they were provoked by receiving electric shocks from a fictitious opponent under the guise of a competitive reaction-time task. Aggression was operationalized as shock intensities and durations administered, in retaliation, by the participants to their fictitious opponent. Acute alcohol intoxication significantly increased aggression for those who grew up in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Thus, our investigation supports Sampson's notions of "legacies of neighborhood inequality" with important implications for the etiology and prevention of violence in real-world settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-416
Number of pages17
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant R01-AA-11691 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and by the National Center for Research Resources awarded to Dr. Peter R. Giancola.


  • aggression
  • alcohol
  • neighborhood disadvantage
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology (all)
  • Law


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