Family Violence is Not Causally Associated with COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders: A Commentary

COVID-19 has caused a wave of research findings to be published in academic and pre-print outlets which have resulted in several high-profile retractions. Given the need to publish policy- and practice-relevant research swiftly, the peer review process may issue fewer checks and balances compared to those present in non-COVID related scholarly works. This urgency to publish has led to publication of manuscripts with major methodological challenges falling through the cracks. In this perspective, we discuss this issue in light of a recent manuscript by Piquero et al. (2020). In the study, the association between stay-at-home orders and family violence was not statistically significant; however, a 12.5% increase in family violence offenses was widely disseminated by media outlets. The inaccurate dissemination of research findings can have important implications for policy and the virus mitigation efforts, which might urge policymakers to terminate stay-at-home orders in an effort to reduce family violence and other social risk factors. Changes may ultimately result in more COVID-related deaths as stay-at-home orders are prematurely and inappropriately lifted to prevent purported injuries in the home. Therefore, the widespread propagation of these claims in the absence of scientific evidence of an increase has great potential to cause harm.