Methods: A review of 43 studies was conducted. For the purposes of this research, the literature was organized into four groupings: 1) studies that found a significant relationship between substance abuse and IPV; 2) studies that found a significant, but weak relationship; 3) studies that found that mediating variables altered the relationship; and 4) studies that did not find a significant relationship between substance abuse and IPV. Points of comparison included sampling method, research design, sample size, measurement method and sample type (e.g., clinical versus general population).
Results: Of the 43 studies examined for this review, the majority (n=24) found a significant relationship between substance abuse and IPV, while 6 found a statistically significant, but weak relationship. Though these studies employed larger samples and utilized random sampling in some cases, most were cross-sectional in nature and did not control for other variables. Studies that found no significant relationship tended to utilize even less rigorous methodology. Of the 7 studies that failed to find a significant relationship, all utilized cross-sectional research designs and samples derived from community or clinical settings, and all but one utilized non-random sampling methods. Other studies (n=6) in this review found the relationship to be mediated through other variables such as the belief in male dominance over women, perpetrator jealousy, and the expectation of aggressive behavior following alcohol consumption. Though fewer in number, these studies utilized rigorous methods similar to other studies in this review such as random sampling, and large sample sizes.
Implications: These results suggest that substance abuse may play a role in IPV. However, even though the majority of studies found a significant relationship between substance abuse and IPV, we must exercise caution in interpreting their results. Though these studies were more likely to utilize rigorous research methods, other studies utilizing similar methods obtained different findings. For example, some of these studies found that the relationship between the variables may be mediated by other factors, while other studies utilizing longitudinal designs found that the relationship may not be stable over time. This suggests that cross-sectional designs may not adequately capture the true strength of the relationship. As a result, future studies should employ a longitudinal design and control for potentially mediating variables.