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Does football cause domestic violence?

Does professional football cause domestic violence? Not exactly, although Thanksgiving does (see below.) But it turns out that losses in professional football games -- specifically, when the home team suffers an unexpected upset, based on the pre-game point spread -- lead to an 8 percent spike in the number of police reports of spousal abuse within a short time of the game.

The more important the game -- against a main rival, or for a playoff spot -- the bigger the spike. And in especially frustrating games, those with a large number of sacks, turnovers and penalties, the effect of an unexpected upset on an increase in domestic violence was 15 percent. Unexpected wins, on the other hand, were not associated with a reduction in domestic violence reports. And, if you had any question, the increased violence was entirely male-on-female, according to the newly released National Bureau of Economics working paper by David Card and Gordon Dahl.

Don’t get too upset with football, though. The increased violence was comparable to that of a hot day (over 80 degrees) but far smaller than the spike associated with major holidays such as Thanksgiving (up 22 percent) or the Fourth of July (up 28 percent.)

As to the meaning of it all, Card and Dahl suggest that the research “provides compelling evidence that at least some portion of family violence arises through a breakdown of control, rather than as instrumental behavior driven by purely rational choice.” In other words, to some extent these men are losing it -- in econo-speak, "a loss-of-control paradigm" -- not making a conscious decision to employ violence to deal with their wives and girlfriends. Of course, only economists, bless their pointy heads, could talk about domestic violence in the language of rational choice.

By Ruth Marcus  | November 18, 2009; 4:26 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Well one's team winning spikes testosterone levels for days. Even domino competitions between Caribbean islands can do that. So there may be something to trying to regain a hormonal balance by going into a dominance and submission routine for a compensatory instinctive reaction.

Posted by: Wildthing1 | November 18, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

As Ms. Marcus points out, statistical evidence of a connection between football and family violence is on a par with the temperature and the holidays.

Why does a man abuse a child or wife or girlfriend? Because he can. No matter what season, or holiday or temperature.

The fact of family violence, whether child abuse, domestic violence or elder abuse is that it exists because one individual thinks it is possible to abuse another without consequences.

Society's task is to educate everyone that criminal and legal consequences do exist and that help is available to every victim of family violence.

Alan Davis
Chief Executive
National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence (

Posted by: radbwana | November 18, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't know and neither does the writer.

Posted by: daphne5 | November 19, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

"In other words...these men are...not making a conscious decision to employ violence to deal with their wives and girlfriends."

I can hear it now - "Honest, judge, I wasn't consiously slapping the b*tch around. I asked her, nicely, to bring me another beer. She made some excuse about being busy and next thing I know - POW - somehow my fist was upside her head. I just don't know how it happened!"

Jeez, Ruth...can you GET any more inane? One might have a problem dealing with anger or frustration, but you do not 'uncounsiously' beat someone up.

Posted by: WilyArmadilla | November 19, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

One wonders what sort of people propose and others authorize and grant Federal funds for pseudo-scientific busy work like this. Then there are the journalists hungry for filler to scavenge and report "findings" that have neither been replicated nor subjected to careful analysis. The whole sad scenario reflects a profound lack of understanding of scientific procedure and responsible journalism. It is tabloid ersatz science for the masses, a form of sensationalism and a justification for ignorant chatter. Wasteful "studies" like this serve no purpose and actually confuse those of the public foolish and unfortunate enough to give them any regard. I don't know how much taxpayer money goes for useless "research" like this but am willing to wager it is too much by an order of magnitude or more. It is all very annoying, embarrassing and depressing to anyone with the slightest acquaintance with science.

Posted by: Teleologicus | November 19, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

you are not getting football banned you freaking statist

Posted by: WilliamGriffin | November 19, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Do tortilla chips cause guacamole, or is it the other way around?

First the Redskins name non-issue, now this. If you hate football so much, just change the channel.

Posted by: TheProFromDover | November 19, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Football, or any other sport, book, movie, etc. cause domestic violence . Those inclined to be violent and abusive to their nearest target will do so no matter what. Lock them away for life, as this behavior never changes.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 19, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

i meant, in my previous posting, to say the things I listed do not cause domestic violence. These guys don't need an excuse.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 19, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

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