Drug abuse and aggression between intimate partners: a meta-analytic review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2008 Feb;28(2):247-74. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2007.05.003. Epub 2007 May 24.


The present investigation employed meta-analytic procedures to quantitatively evaluate the empirical evidence on the relationship between drug abuse and aggression between intimate partners. Data from 96 studies yielding 547 effect sizes indicated that increases in drug use and drug-related problems were significantly associated with increases in aggression between intimate partners (d= .27). Cocaine emerged as the illicit substance with the strongest relationship to psychological, physical, and sexual aggression (ds= .39 to .62). Marijuana was also identified as having a significant association with partner aggression. Results showed comparable effect sizes for men and women, regardless of the sex of the drug user and/or perpetrator of partner aggression, with female reports of aggression having yielded larger effect sizes than male reports. Moderator analyses revealed that relative to other groups, married or cohabiting couples and Black participants evidenced significantly stronger effect sizes. The findings are discussed in relation to possible mechanisms linking drugs to partner aggression, and implications for future research are discussed in terms of focusing on conducting studies that assess the interaction of context and temporal sequencing of drugs and partner aggression.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Causality
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*


  • Illicit Drugs