ITROW Research Projects Fact Sheet



Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

Excerpted from ITROW News, Spring 1993, Vol. 3, No. 1, page 7.

Substance abuse has long been recognized as a precipitating factor in many domestic violence incidents, although there has been relatively little research on its role. A study conducted by the Institute for Teaching and Research on Women (ITROW) used data from interviews with 232 offenders arrested for domestic violence. Major findings:  

  • Current substance abuse is high among domestic violence offenders, with 54 percent being current heavy users of one or more substances. The main type of substance abuse is alcohol usage, with 46 percent of the offenders being dependent or abusing. 28 percent were found dependent on opiates, cocaine, marijuana, or inhalants.
  • Nearly two-fifths of the domestic violence offenders said that they had been drinking at the time they were arrested for domestic violence. 
  • Most of the domestic violence offenders in this sample of people coming before the courts are white male blue-collar workers who graduated from high school or went to college, and who do not live with the victim. 
  • Over half had previously come to the attention of the courts for assault and violent crimes, felonies, or substance-abuse-related crimes.

The finding that 38 percent of offenders were drinking at the time of the incident is difficult to assess because (a) the data are taken from the reports of offenders, who might wish to blame the incident on alcohol, and who thus might recall inaccurately or embellish the truth; and (b) the study design did not provide comparison data of a matched sample of nonviolent subjects to find out what proportion of a similar population of nonviolent individuals might also have been drinking at the day of week and time of day that domestic violence incidents are most likely to take place.

Because of the high level of alcohol consumption generally in the adult population, the percentage of persons not in domestic violence treatment who drink in evenings, or on weekends, when domestic violence is more likely to take place, also is high.



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