Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Renee M. Cunningham-Williams


Intimate partners of the estimated 30.6 million United States residents with substance and/or gambling problems (SGP) experience significant stress, such as disrupted family life, financial trouble, and increased risk for related problems such as intimate partner violence (IPV). This results in considerable distress and physical/mental health problems. Though SGP are often chronic, the treatment rate is low, and there is little help available for intimate partners of those with untreated SGP. Before we can create effective assistance and empowerment programs for intimate partners of people with SGP, we must understand the function of coping and social support in the task of dealing with a partner's SGP, as well as the role of IPV in that process.

To this end, 222 female intimate partners of people with SGP were recruited from the community to complete an online survey. IPV was common, with over half of participants reporting experiencing violence/abuse and/or coercive control perpetrated by their partners. Aim 1 analyses investigated relationships between burden of SGP, IPV, coping, social support, psychological distress, and quality of life. Burden of SGP was associated with high psychological distress and low quality of life. For Aim 2, mediation analyses were used to determine how use of coping strategies and receipt of social support function in the relationship of burden of SGP to psychological distress and quality of life. Specific coping strategies (engaged, tolerant, withdrawal) and types of social support (informal, positive, negative) functioned in different ways, predicting both lessened and increased psychological distress and quality of life. For Aim 3, moderated mediation analyses investigated the function of IPV to the relationship of burden of SGP to psychological distress and quality of life. Here, the two aspects of IPV (violence/abuse and coercive control) had different effects on mediated paths through coping and social support. Implications of results for social work research, practice and policy are discussed.


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