Study Shows Domestic Violence Increases after Upset Loss in NFL

March 24, 2011

In a study published online earlier this week by The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2011, Vol. 126, pp. 1-41), two California physicians have reported that domestic violence against women increases significantly in areas where the home fans’ National Football League (NFL) teams just suffered an upset loss at home.

In the article, Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior, authors David Card and Gordon Dahl report their findings after studying the results of NFL games and comparing those to local police reports of family violence that occurred in a small window immediately following the conclusion of the game. Their study matched NFL game outcomes and family violence reports of six teams: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans.

When a team lost at home in a game it was favored to win by at least four points, the study discovered a 10% increase in at-home domestic violence by men against women in the local area of the losing franchise. The percentage doubled to 20% when the team lost to a rival.

“Taken together, our findings suggest that emotional cues based on the outcomes of professional football games exert a relatively strong effect on the occurrence of family violence.” (p. 3)

The authors did report that domestic violence cases are still much more frequent during holidays—typically a peak time for domestic violence incidents—although the spike following an NFL team’s loss was approximately equal to the domestic violence reports that occur on hot days, also generally a time when domestic violence cases increase.

“In our case, NFL football games are likely to bring couples together, and the emotional cues associated with televised games place women at an elevated risk of abuse.” (p. 38)

Full journal article: The Quarterly Journal of Economics

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