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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Unlike Alcohol, Marijuana Not Linked to Dating Abuse Perpetration

Dating abuse is physical, sexual, or psychological violence committed against a current or former dating partner. Previous research has found an association between same-day alcohol use and perpetrating dating abuse, but the participants in those studies have almost exclusively been college students. Meanwhile, very little is known about marijuana use and dating abuse perpetration in college or non-college-attending younger adults.

Now, a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher examines alcohol and marijuana use by non-college attending young adults who have perpetrated dating abuse. The study finds no strong association between marijuana use and dating abuse perpetration, and that the association between alcohol and dating abuse perpetration could be less straightforward than previously understood.

In the study, published in Violence Against Women, participants were more likely to perpetrate dating abuse within the same 24 hours as drinking alcohol, but in half of these cases their drinking took place after the event. The association between same-day marijuana use and dating abuse perpetration was weak and not statistically significant.

Dr. Emily Rothman, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH and lead author of the study, says she and her co-authors were not entirely surprised by the marijuana finding, but that the alcohol finding was a “twist.”

“This raises some new questions about whether the association between alcohol and same-day alcohol use, at least in non-college-attending young adults, is always about alcohol having that pharmacological disinhibiting effect and causing violence,” she says, “or whether it might not be feelings of stress, guilt, shame, and upset that drive some people who perpetrate violence to consume alcohol afterwards. Both explanations could also be in play at the same time.”

Read more about the study.