- Petra, Megan M
- Background and Purpose: Addictions can be long-term crises for family members, who experience subsequent distress, physical, financial & legal issues, and risk for intimate partner violence (IPV). Addictions are common, with 7.8% having substance use disorders (SUD) and 1-2% with gambling disorder. Since <15% get treatment in any year, families must deal with the situation over time. Rates of SUD are similar for African-Americans and Caucasians, though African-Americans are less likely to abuse alcohol but more likely to abuse drugs than Caucasians. Regardless of race, many families deal with the problem on their own with coping strategies and social support, since help for families of people with addictions is not widely available. One strategy, religiosity, has been shown to be effective in reducing distress among certain groups in the general population, including African-Americans. However, it is not clear whether this strategy is helpful to the task of dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Moreover, the presence of IPV in families with addictions can render otherwise-useful strategies ineffective. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate differential effectiveness of social support and coping, especially religiosity, in female African-American and Caucasian spouses/partners of people with alcohol, drug, and/or gambling problems. Methods: One hundred forty-nine Caucasian and 48 African-American female participants completed an online questionnaire about the addiction, coping, social support, and distress. Analyses included t-tests and regressions. Results: Participants’ partners had problems with alcohol (70%), drugs (37%), and/or gambling (28%). African-Americans dealt with partners’ longer-lasting drug problems, but Caucasians faced more serious drinking in their partners. IPV was common for participants of both races. Though most participants had at least some college, Caucasians’ family income was much higher and they were more likely to own their home. Despite the similar addiction/IPV problems and more difficult financial situations, African-American participants exhibited less distress than Caucasians. To investigate further, distress was regressed on impact of addiction, intimate partner violence, coping, social support, race, and religiosity. Impact of addiction and IPV predicted increased distress, but coefficients for coping, social support, and religiosity were not significant. However, race interacted with religiosity to predict reduced distress, p=.02. For Caucasians, distress was high regardless of religiosity. African-Americans for whom religion was not important experienced similarly high distress, with distress less elevated among African-Americans reporting that religion was somewhat important, and low among African-Americans for whom religion was very important. Conclusions and Implications: In the presence of IPV, addiction-focused coping and social support did not predict lessened distress in partners of people with addictions. However, religiosity predicted lowered distress in African-Americans but not Caucasians. This is important, as social workers helping families of people with addictions should enable them to use strategies that others have found to be effective. Although religiosity was helpful for African-Americans, it is not clear whether it would be similarly effective in achieving goals other than lessened distress. More research is needed to determine which strategies may help diverse families of people with addictions achieve a variety of goals.