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Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior

53 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2009  

David Card

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Gordon B. Dahl

UC San Diego - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Rochester - Department of Economics

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Date Written: November 2009

Abstract

Family violence is a pervasive and costly problem, yet there is no consensus on how to interpret the phenomenon of violence by one family member against another. Some analysts assume that violence has an instrumental role in intra-family incentives. Others argue that violent episodes represent a loss of control that the offender immediately regrets. In this paper we specify and test a behavioral model of the latter form. Our key hypothesis is that negative emotional cues - benchmarked relative to a rationally expected reference point - make a breakdown of control more likely. We test this hypothesis using data on police reports of family violence on Sundays during the professional football season. Controlling for location and time fixed effects, weather factors, the pre-game point spread, and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses by the home team (losses in games that the home team was predicted to win by more than 3 points) lead to an 8 percent increase in police reports of at-home male-on-female intimate partner violence. There is no corresponding effect on female-on-male violence. Consistent with the behavioral prediction that losses matter more than gains, upset victories by the home team have (at most) a small dampening effect on family violence. We also find that unexpected losses in highly salient or frustrating games have a 50% to 100% larger impact on rates of family violence. The evidence that payoff-irrelevant events affect the rate of family violence leads us to conclude that at least some fraction of family violence is better characterized as a breakdown of control than as rationally directed instrumental violence.

Suggested Citation

Card, David and Dahl, Gordon B., Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior (November 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15497. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1505801

David E. Card (Contact Author)

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

Room 3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
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510-642-5222 (Phone)
510-643-7042 (Fax)

Gordon B. Dahl

UC San Diego - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Rochester - Department of Economics ( email )

Harkness Hall
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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