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Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence and the Use of Addictive Substances in Poor and Homeless Single Mothers

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 8 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2002 Pages: 785-815
Date Published
July 2002
31 pages

By building on previous literature, this National Institute of Justice funded study explored the complex relationship between adult partner violence and substance use in extremely poor and homeless women.


A growing body of research has begun to document the prevalence and severity of violence in the lives of low-income women, especially women on public welfare. In addition, researchers have documented high rates of interpersonal violence in clinical samples of substance users and high rates of substance use in samples of battered women. Building on these previous studies, this study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, utilized a sample of extremely poor and homeless single mothers followed longitudinally for 2 years to explore the relationship between adult partner violence and substance use. The data set was gathered and collected in Worcester, Massachusetts, the State’s second largest city. The baseline study consisted of 436 women. The report focused on the 278 women who completed all interviews and had no missing data on the variables. Sample characteristics included an average age of 27.4, majority of non-Hispanic White, 48 percent had been homeless at baseline, 55 percent had graduated from high school or received a GED, and 69 percent had never married. This study’s attempt was to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between adult partner violence and the use of addictive substances in the lives of poor women. Strong evidence was found that intimate partner violence was predictive of follow-up drug, but not alcohol, use. Results indicated that women victimized by violent partners were more likely to have a history of child sexual molestation and be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study also suggested that some other unexamined variables might account for the relationship between women in abusive relationships and substance use. The study findings have important implications for programs and public policies, as well as it underscores the importance of addressing the contribution of partner’s drug and alcohol use to victimized women’s follow-up use of substances. Tables and references

Date Published: July 1, 2002