Sunday, February 05, 2006

Regrettable Side of the Super Bowl

Today people will gather at parties around the nation. According to today's Kansas City Star, Americans will consume more food today than any other day than Christmas. Antacid sales will spike 20 percent tomorrow. Americans also will consume thousands -- maybe millions -- of bottles of beer. And, sadly, more Americans will commit acts of domestic violence today.

Four years ago, in spring semester 2002, I was working as a research assistant for Walter Gantz, chair of the department of telecommunications at Indiana University. Walt had heard all of the rumors and urban legends linking the Super Bowl with domestic violence, and he wanted to use the tools of social science to examine whether a link really existed.

We attempted to get data from emergency rooms, women's shelters, and police departments. We could not muster much cooperation from the first two sources. They either did not keep date-specific information, or it was too difficult to obtain. However, we were able to get date-specific information on 911 domestic violence dispatches from 15 of the 30 police departments in NFL cities that we targeted. We ended up with 26,192 days of domestic violence data from the 15 cities.

We wanted to know whether the mere fact of a Super Bowl falling on a given day caused domestic violence to increase. We controlled for the city size (i.e., one would expect there to be more domestic violence in a large market compared to a small market), time of year, day of the week, and many other factors.

Along the way, I learned a lot about domestic violence. The truth is saddening. Domestic violence increases on the weekend (we are more likely to be together), and it increases in the summer (it is both hotter, and we have more time off of work). However, domestic violence really increases on holidays. Christmas. Thanksgiving. Labor Day. When we think of these holidays, we think of celebration. But the police reports tell another side of the story. We are also more likely to lash out against those whom we love.

In the final analysis, we were looking at 1,366,518 separate domestic violence dispatches. How many were statistically related to the Super Bowl? According to our analysis, 272 of those incidents were due to a Super Bowl falling on a given day (we also included the day following the Super Bowl to capture any 911 dispatches that happened after midnight since the Super Bowl starts so late on the East coast). In the total pool of incidents, this is a small fraction (.0199 percent); however, for those 272 individuals, the threat is very real.

If we look at all of the incidents on Super Bowl days, then those 272 incidents represent 6.5% of the total incidents for those days. This is no small increase -- especially for those involved. To put the Super Bowl in perspective, however, our analysis predicted that 1,238 incidents -- almost 1,000 more -- were due to Christmas.

In the end, the Super Bowl does not look like a Super villain. Instead, it looks a lot like a holiday. The Super Bowl puts more people together and sprinkles in alcohol. In the final piece, we wrote: "Viewed from this perspective, it appears that the Super Bowl has all of the elements to spark holiday-related domestic violence: increased expectations, close domestic interaction, and alcohol consumption. And unlike the other three major sports in America, this one game is for all the marbles, raising the stakes for those who care about the outcome. Although it goes against the hopes associated with any holiday, it appears that when one throws together a mix of people, expectations, anxiety, and alcohol -- and in many locales, in close quarters under wintry conditions -- a same and next day spike in violence is the result."

This study is being published as a chapter in an edited book:

Gantz, W., Bradley, S. D., & Wang, Z. (2006). Televised NFL games, the family, and domestic violence. In A. A. Raney & J. Bryant (Eds.), Handbook of sports and media. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

You can read more about an earlier version of the report in a news release from IU.

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Blogger david giacalone said...

Thank you very much for this thoughtful information, Sam. I used it today at my weblog, f/k/a.

2:56 PM  
Blogger OOB said...

Just curious as to what you define as domestic violence Dave. Are you talking about all types of violence between two or more people any where. Or are you speaking about domestic violence between two members of the opposite sex?

9:39 PM  
Blogger david giacalone said...

oob, In situations that I am aware of here in New York State (Family Court and City or County court), Domestic Violence is physical abuse between two persons who share a household -- family members, spouse or domestic partner, parents and children, siblings.

Some advocacy groups include verbal abuse, but I would not.

7:14 AM  
Blogger OOB said...

Actually my question was meant for Sam. But thank you David for your input. Which 15 cities were targeted and what were the definitions used by the dispatchers for the term Domestic Violence ? For that matter what is Sam's definition of the term? I suspect that it is somewhat broader than David's. Isn't it true that most departments call any disruption of the general peace coming from a private domicile a domestic call? Including loud arguments for example?

For the record I think that people of either gender who physically abuse other people need to be locked up for the good of society as a whole. I also believe though that since VAWA the advocates David mentions are now backed up by Federal legislation and are re-defining the term to include all sorts of things which reasonable people would not call domestic violence. For the sake of federal funding. I think therefore a definition is in order especially if Sam thinks the study should be considered seriously.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.seems to me you have hit a hot button!

11:22 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

For some reason, I did not see these comments earlier. At any rate, we struggled with common definitions of domestic violence across police departments. We needed date-specific data, and the only way this was logged commonly was domestic violence dispatches. The actual resolution of cases was not recorded with time precision. Thus, as you suspect, these data would capture cases when neighbors called to report a fight that may have been only loud voices. The time needed to sort through actual police reports or court records would be prohibitive.

4:16 PM  

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