Study Looks at Female Drunk Drivers and Why They Often Re-Offend

A new study has found that female drunk drivers tend to be older, well-educated, and divorced, widowed, or separated. Researchers from the University of Nottingham found that emotional and mental health problems were common factors in alcohol-related offenses among women.

The researchers also found that treatment programs that force women to face the consequences of their offense can intensify their feelings of guilt and shame, often resulting in relapse and subsequent offenses.

Lead author Mary McMurran, professor at the Institute of Mental Health, said that the findings suggest that women who are divorced, widowed, or separated could be turning to alcohol because they are distressed about their situation. She added that treatment programs that induce negative emotions may actually increase the emotional distress, which could lead to greater abuse. McMurran and colleagues are calling for more effective treatment programs that specifically target women.

The researchers looked at 26 previous studies from around the world to gather evidence, and found that women were less likely to drink and drive than men and less likely to be repeat offenders; fewer women had previously been arrested for public drunkenness and other alcohol-related offenses; female drunk drivers were more likely than men to be widowed, divorced, or separated; female drunk drivers were more likely to have a family history of alcohol abuse; and female drunk drivers were more likely to suffer from mental health problems.

Six of the studies examined gender differences in other types of offenses besides drunk driving, suggesting that while women are less likely to drive drunk than men, alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of drunk driving for both genders. Drinking also increases the likelihood of violent offenses in both men and women.

Drinking alcohol while taking medication for mental health disorders could also increase the likelihood of alcohol-related offenses among women, as female offenders with alcohol abuse problems also tend to have more psychological problems than men.

Only four of the studies looked at treatment programs specifically tailored for female alcohol abusers, suggesting that there is not enough evidence to determine what types of treatment are most effective. However, there was strong evidence suggesting that programs that force women to face the consequences of their actions (such as putting female drunk drivers in before a panel of people who have been injured or whose loved ones have been killed in drunk-driving accidents) actually increased the risk of reoffending.

Another study followed high-risk female offenders who were given a “life activities” interview as part of their treatment, which focused on life adjustment and occupational and financial status. Forty-four percent of these women re-offended, compared to 24 percent who were not given this type of interview.

McMurran said that treatment programs designed for women with alcohol-related offenses need to be carefully evaluated, as they may be modeled on programs designed for men and greater attention needs to be paid to a broad ranger of psychological issues. McMurran said she hopes the information from this study will help inform future treatment programs for female offenders.

Source: Science Daily, Female Drunk-Drivers Tend to Be Older, Better-Educated, and No Longer Married, May 25, 2011

Posted on May 27th, 2011
Posted in Women & Alcohol

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