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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Alcohol interventions, alcohol policy and intimate partner violence: a systematic review

Ingrid M Wilson1*, Kathryn Graham2345 and Angela Taft1

Author Affiliations

1 Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

2 Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada

3 Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

4 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

5 National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:881  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-881

Published: 27 August 2014

Abstract

Background

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant global public health issue. The consistent evidence that alcohol use by one or both partners contributes to the risk and severity of IPV suggests that interventions that reduce alcohol consumption may also reduce IPV. This study sought to review the evidence for effects on IPV of alcohol interventions at the population, community, relationship and individual levels using the World Health Organization ecological framework for violence.

Methods

Eleven databases including Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL and EMBASE were searched for English-language studies and grey literature published 1 January 1992 – 1 March 2013 investigating whether alcohol interventions/policies were associated with IPV reduction within adult (≥18) intimate relationships. Eleven studies meeting design criteria for attributing effects to the intervention and ten studies showing mediation of alcohol consumption were included in the review. The heterogeneity of study designs precluded quantitative meta analysis; therefore, a critical narrative approach was used.

Results

Population-level pricing and taxation studies found weak or no evidence for alcohol price changes influencing IPV. Studies of community-level policies or interventions (e.g., hours of sale, alcohol outlet density) showed weak evidence of an association with IPV. Couples-based and individual alcohol treatment studies found a relationship between reductions in alcohol consumption and reductions in IPV but their designs precluded attributing changes to treatment. Randomized controlled trials of combined alcohol and violence treatment programs found some positive effects of brief alcohol intervention as an adjunct to batterer treatment for hazardous drinking IPV perpetrators, and of brief interventions with non-dependent younger populations, but effects were often not sustained.

Conclusions

Despite evidence associating problematic alcohol use with IPV, the potential for alcohol interventions to reduce IPV has not been adequately tested, possibly because studies have not focused on those most at risk of alcohol-related IPV. Research using rigorous designs should target young adult populations among whom IPV and drinking is highly prevalent. Combining alcohol and IPV intervention/policy approaches at the population, community, relationship and individual-level may provide the best opportunity for effective intervention.