Who Gets High and Who Gets Assaulted? Alcohol and Drug Use in Domestic and Other Violence

Keri B. Burchfield, The Pennsylvania State University
Richard B. Felson, The Pennsylvania State University

A large volume of research identifies alcohol as a risk factor in interpersonal violence. Though we know that alcohol plays a role in violent acts, we know less about what types of violence are more likely to involve alcohol. We address this issue by focusing on relationships between offenders and victims of physical assault.

We use the National Violence Against Women and Men Survey to examine the relative importance of alcohol and illegal drug use in assaults involving strangers, family members, and other acquaintances. We predicted that alcohol would be more likely to be a contributing factor in violence involving strangers, since conflict between strangers is unlikely unless either the offender or victim are drinking. In support of the hypothesis we found that offenders who are using alcohol are much more likely to attack strangers than people they know. Victims who are drinking, however, are no more likely to be assaulted by strangers than by acquaintances. In addition, victims who are using illegal drugs are much more likely to be assaulted by acquaintances than by strangers.

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Updated 05/20/2006