Objectives: This study analyzes gender and ethnic/racial differences in the prevalence of alcohol-related problems among white, black and Hispanic couples in the United States, and assesses their contribution to the risk of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Methods: Our study population consisted of 1440 white, black, and Hispanic couples obtained through a multistage area household probability sample from the 1995 National Alcohol Survey. Alcohol-related problems (i.e., drinking consequences and alcohol dependence symptoms in the last 12 months) were assessed among respondents and their partners. Male-to-female and female-to-male partner violence (MFPV, FMPV) were measured separately using the Conflict Tactics Scale.
Results and Conclusions: Alcohol-related problems were more prevalent among men than women. Our bivariate analysis demonstrated a significant positive association between male alcohol-related problems and IPV across racial/ethnic groups, and a similar association between female alcohol-related problems and IPV for white and black couples. In the multivariate logistic regression analyses, however, many of these associations were attenuated. After controlling for sociodemographic and psychosocial covariates, male alcohol-related problems were no longer significantly associated with an increased risk of MFPV among white or Hispanic couples. Female alcohol-related problems predicted FMPV, but not MFPV, among white couples. Among black couples, however, male and female alcohol-related problems remained strong predictors of intimate partner violence.
Significance: Alcohol-related problems are important predictors of intimate partner violence, and the exact association between problems and violence seems to be ethnic-specific. Alcohol-related problems, rather than level of alcohol consumption, may be the more relevant factor to consider in the alcohol-partner violence association. Future research is needed to explore the temporal relationships between the development of alcohol-related problems and the occurrence of partner violence.