How Alcohol Use in Early Adulthood Is Impacted by Violence

Many early-life traumas have been shown to contribute to alcohol use later in adulthood. Childhood trauma experiences, such as abuse and neglect, have shown to increase the risk of alcohol and substance abuse in adulthood. New research is showing, however, that violence also impacts adolescents later in life.

The effects of violence extend into adulthood, even for those victims experiencing abuse by a non-family member. A study by Smith, Elwyn, Ireland, and Thornberry explores how an intimate partner in adolescence can affect drinking behaviors in early adulthood.

Smith et al. examined the impact of adolescent exposure to intimate partner violence on substance abuse in early adulthood. Though it had been theorized that adolescent exposure to intimate partner violence increased the risk of substance abuse problems, the earlier research on the subject had been inconclusive.

The researchers wanted to explore the risk for problem substance abuse in early adulthood and how it is affected by violence with an intimate partner, and whether gender played a role in the results.

The data was gathered using a subsample of the Rochester Youth Development Study, with a total of 508 participants. The study was longitudinal, and was comprised of participants from urban, mostly minority adolescents that were at high risk for antisocial behavior and drug use.

The researchers used logistic regression analyses to determine whether the odds of four indicators of problem substance abuse in early adulthood were predicted by intimate partner violence. The researchers controlled for parental substance abuse, adolescent maltreatment and sociodemographic risk factors.

The results of the study indicate that exposure to severe violence from an intimate partner when the individual is an adolescent greatly increase the risk of alcohol-use problems in early adulthood for females. However, the same results were not found for males.

Neither gender was affected when measures were examined for other substance-use indicators related to the exposure to intimate partner violence.

The findings of the study indicate that females exposed to intimate partner violence may have an increased risk of alcohol use problems in early adulthood. The study’s results show that targeting young women with a history of intimate partner violence may be effective in reducing the number of young women struggling with alcohol abuse.

However, the results of the study show a less significant association between adolescent violence with an intimate partner and early adulthood drinking behavior than was anticipated with the high risk sample that was used.