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Objective: Child maltreatment (CM) is prevalent among U.S. youth and has been associated with subsequent maladaptive behaviors, including substance use. The current study examines the associations between early child maltreatment and (1) preteen alcohol-use initiation and (2) heavy episodic drinking among students in a large study of adolescents. Method: The Youth Violence Survey is a cross-sectional survey of public school students enrolled in Grades 7,9, 11, and 12 in a school district in a high-risk community. The analysis sample was limited to students who provided complete data on all relevant variables (N = 3,559). Fifty-two percent of the analysis sample was female. Early child maltreatment was defined as witnessing domestic violence and experiencing physical and/or sexual abuse before the age of 10 years. Outcome variables include ever drinking alcohol, preteen alcohol-use initiation, and heavy episodic drinking. Results: Witnessing domestic violence, experiencing physical abuse, and experiencing sexual abuse were significantly associated with preteen alcohol-use initiation (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.55, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.26-1.91; AOR = 2.10, 95% CI: 1.69-2.63; AOR = 1.57, 95% CI: 1.16-2.14, respectively). Students who experienced one or more types of maltreatment were 1.5-3 times more likely to report preteen alcohol-use initiation. Heavy episodic drinking was associated only with childhood sexual abuse in boys (AOR = 2.62, 95% CI: 1.52-4.50). Conclusions: Prevention and treatment of the negative impact of early child maltreatment may delay and reduce alcohol use.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Copyright © 2008 Rutgers University.

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