The effects of childhood trauma on drug and alcohol abuse in college students

Harvey Henry Jelley, Fordham University


This study proposed to investigate whether childhood trauma predicted college drinking and drug use. The issue of whether specific types of maltreatment (e.g., sexual abuse and physical abuse) were related to college alcohol and substance abuse was also examined. Pathways to drug and alcohol abuse were examined using three theoretical models: the Self-Medication Model, the Diatheses-Stress Model, and the Peer Influence Model. The study's participants were 143 undergraduates comprised of 94 females and 49 males. They were administered self-report questionnaires that measured the effects of childhood trauma on drug and alcohol abuse as mediated by depression, PTSD, social skills and as moderated by stress level. The study found that emotional abuse was associated with drug abuse and that physical neglect was associated with alcohol abuse. Childhood trauma was highly associated with depression and PTSD. Emotional abuse was found to be mediated by depression and PTSD in predicting drug abuse scores. Some of the study's other findings were that emotional abuse, physical abuse, and emotional neglect were significantly associated with self-esteem, emotional abuse was significantly associated with social sensitivity and emotional neglect was significantly associated with social control. Emotional abuse was mediated by self-esteem in predicting drug abuse scores. Gender by childhood trauma interactions on the effects of drug and alcohol use were examined; there were significant effects of emotional abuse by gender, physical abuse by gender, sexual abuse by gender and physical neglect by gender. It had been hypothesized that the results of this study would confirm that childhood trauma would be associated with greater drinking and drug use in college students, this was only partially supported. However other symptomatologies such as PTSD, self-esteem and social skills may play a more important role in the development of drug and alcohol problems and thus be better indicators of individuals at risk.

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Recommended Citation

Jelley, Harvey Henry, "The effects of childhood trauma on drug and alcohol abuse in college students" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3061335.