Bar Fights: Jump In or Stay Out?

Researchers at Penn State recently conducted a study on bar fights in the Toronto area. In one third of the encounters, a third party intervenes to deescalate the violence.

Of that one third, 80% of intervening individuals were male. Perhaps surprisingly, males, too, were also the most likely to intervene during a physical confrontation between two other males.

The study did not take into consideration the cause of the bar fights. In regards to interactions with females, this may have determined whether a female or male was more likely (or not) to intervene in a confrontation.

Naturally, as the level of aggression escalated, so too did the likelihood of intervention.

Although the researchers noted that males were most likely to intervene in disputes between two males (72%), the most common aggressive interactions occurred between a male and a female. However, those confrontations were the least likely to see intervention (17%).

There were no indications as to whether or not gay and lesbian bars were included in the study, which also could have impacted the results. The study also fails to establish which gender was most effective in their efforts towards de-escalation during a conflict.

The researchers’ data seems to suggest that de-escalation is most effective at the very beginning of a confrontation, becoming less effective as interaction continues. The dangers of this are two-fold; on one hand, jumping in immediately to de-escalate the conflict could actually make it worse, while standing by to let the two work matters out themselves peacefully could result in further escalation, rather than de-escalation.

So, what is an alcoholic to do? Well, probably the best advice (considering that this is on an Orange County drug and alcohol treatment webpage) is to call and ask about getting help.

If that is out of the question, really, it is best to stay out of it if not directly involved n the confrontation. In other words, do not be that third-party intervener. That is what bouncers are for. They get paid to spot this stuff and to break it up if it gets out of line. All you or your buddy does by intervening is risk spending the night in jail and maybe catching an assault charge, or ending up in the hospital.

At the risk of sounding cruel, sometimes people need to suffer the consequences of their own actions. If your friend has a habit of getting into these conflicts, it might do him/her some good to let them reap the consequences of their behavior.

If you are really concerned about someone who seems to have had one (or several) too many, the best course of action is to tell a bouncer or the person behind the bar to keep an eye on them, and leave it at that. You did your due diligence as a friend at that point, while also not risking your own safety over someone else’s ego.

Have any stories or experiences, thoughts on the study, or anything else? Let us know in the comments!

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