Research Article| Volume 49, ISSUE 3, P467-475, September 2015

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Substance Use and Physical Dating Violence

The Role of Contextual Moderators


      Theoretic models suggest that associations between substance use and dating violence perpetration may vary in different social contexts, but few studies have examined this proposition. The current study examined whether social control and violence in the neighborhood, peer, and family contexts moderate the associations between substance use (heavy alcohol use, marijuana, and hard drug use) and adolescent physical dating violence perpetration.


      Adolescents in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades completed questionnaires in 2004 and again four more times until 2007 when they were in the tenth, 11th, and 12th grades. Multilevel analysis was used to examine interactions between each substance and measures of neighborhood, peer, and family social control and violence as within-person (time-varying) predictors of physical dating violence perpetration across eighth through 12th grade (N=2,455). Analyses were conducted in 2014.


      Physical dating violence perpetration increased at time points when heavy alcohol and hard drug use were elevated; these associations were weaker when neighborhood social control was higher and stronger when family violence was higher. Also, the association between heavy alcohol use and physical dating violence perpetration was weaker when teens had more-prosocial peer networks and stronger when teens’ peers reported more physical dating violence.


      Linkages between substance use and physical dating violence perpetration depend on substance use type and levels of contextual violence and social control. Prevention programs that address substance use–related dating violence should consider the role of social contextual variables that may condition risk by influencing adolescents’ aggression propensity.
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