The Effects of Alcohol Intoxication on Young Adult Women’s Identification of Risk for Sexual Assault: A Systematic Review

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Alcohol-related sexual assault among young adult women continues to present a public health concern. Social information-processing theory provides an organizing framework for understanding how alcohol intoxication can impair the processing of sexual assault risk cues and behavioral responding in sexual assault scenarios. The aim of the present article was to systematically review the extant research on the effects of alcohol intoxication on sexual assault risk information processing among young adult women. We selected relevant research through a systematic search of scientific databases, using key words related to young adult women, alcohol intoxication, and risk recognition, resulting in 14 independent research samples meeting all criteria. Studies used a variety of methods and dependent measures, precluding quantitative analysis of results. Thirteen of the 14 studies identified report at least partial support for intoxication impairing the attention to cues, interpretation of social information, or intended behavioral response in a hypothetical sexual assault scenario. Given some mixed findings, further research is warranted to identify contextual and individual differences related to risk detection and intended responding and to fully test other aspects of social information processing. Results have implications for improving alcohol-related sexual assault prevention programs by addressing the impact of alcohol intoxication on processing sexual assault risk information.

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