The Long-Term Associations Between Direct and Threatened Physical Violence in Adolescence and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders During the Mid-30s

Publication Abstract

Beardslee, Jordan, John E. Schulenberg, and Sharon Z. Simonton. 2020. "The Long-Term Associations Between Direct and Threatened Physical Violence in Adolescence and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders During the Mid-30s." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 81(2): 125-134.

Objective: Most studies linking physical victimization and substance use have focused on concurrent or temporally proximal associations, making it unclear whether physical victimization has a sustained impact on substance use problems. We examined the long-term associations between adolescent physical victimization and symptoms of substance use disorders in adulthood, controlling for intermediating victimization during young adulthood and several control variables.

Method: Data were obtained from the Monitoring the Future Study (N = 5,291). Women and men were recruited around age 18 and surveyed biennially through age 30, and again at 35. Past-year physical victimization (threatened physical assaults, injurious assaults) was measured regularly from age 18 to 30. Alcohol and cannabis use symptoms (e.g., withdrawal, tolerance) were assessed at age 35. Controls were measured in adolescence (e.g., prior substance use) and young adulthood (e.g., marriage). Interactions examined whether associations varied by sex.

Results: When we controlled for adolescent substance use, adolescents who were threatened with injury or who sustained physical injuries as a result of violence had more alcohol use symptoms at age 35 than nonvictims. However, when victimization during young adulthood was statistically accounted for, only victimization during young adulthood was associated with age-35 alcohol use symptoms. The effects of young adult victimization, but not adolescent victimization, were stronger for women. Victimization was mostly unrelated to age-35 cannabis use symptoms.

Conclusions: Adolescents who are threatened with physical assaults or injured by physical assaults have significantly more alcohol use symptoms in their mid-30s than nonvictimized adolescents, but these associations are completely explained by subsequent victimization during young adulthood.


Drug & Alcohol Use

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