Gender differences in trait aggression in young adults with drug and alcohol dependence compared to the general population

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jul 1;35(5):1333-40. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2011.04.005. Epub 2011 Apr 22.


Objective: Data in gender differences in aggression among alcohol and drug dependent subjects are lacking, and no published data are available about gender differences among various subtypes of substance using populations. The goal of this cross-sectional study was to investigate gender differences with regard to types of trait aggression in substance dependent young populations (age: 20-35 years) compared to the general population.

Methods: Subjects were selected from two clinical samples with a diagnosis of alcohol and drug dependence as well as from a representative sample of the general population. Trait aggression was measured by the four individual subscales of the Buss Perry Aggression Questionnaire (physical-PA, verbal aggression-VA, hostility-H and anger AN) whereas alcohol and drug use were characterized by the AUDIT and EuroADAD scales, respectively.

Results: Alcohol and drug dependent subjects showed higher severity on all four subscales of trait aggression compared to the general population. The male-female difference was the highest in the cannabis group. General Linear Model analysis for PA indicated a significant main effect of gender (higher PA for males, p=0.034) with no interaction between substance dependence and gender. For VA, no main effect or interaction for gender was found. Effect sizes for gender difference indicated that while males and females were similar in the control group in the severity in H and A, the level of H and AN was substantially higher in females than in males in the clinical group. These differences between the two genders reached statistical significance in the marijuana group, where female subjects showed a significantly higher severity in these two domains.

Conclusions: Compared to the normal sample chronic substance use is associated with higher scores on certain factors of trait aggression, including hostility and anger, in females than in males. Our data suggest that aggression in substance dependent females is more provocable by chronic use of alcohol and drugs than in males.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Population Groups
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult