Longitudinal Effects of Childhood Sexual/Physical Violence On Subsequent Development of Alcohol Use and Depressive Symptoms of White and African American Women
Method: A secondary data analysis was conducted using autoregressive, cross-lagged path models to test longitudinal associations between childhood experiences of sexual/physical violence, alcohol use and depressive symptoms of White and African American women. Seven years’ of longitudinal data collected from a total of three waves from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) was analyzed. A total of 1,756 women (1,284 non-Hispanic white (White) and 472 non-Hispanic African American (African American) women) who completed all three waves of Add Health were included in this study. Childhood sexual/physical violence was defined as any experiences of sexual or physical violence before respondents entered 7th grade. Levels of alcohol use at each wave was measured by summing experiences of binge drinking, getting drunk, and alcohol related problems. Levels of depressive symptoms at each wave was measured by the 9-item version of Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale for all three waves (all α >.81). Respondents’ ages at all waves, parental and family characteristics (i.e., family poverty, parental education attainment, and family structure) at wave 1, and respondents’ demographic characteristics (i.e., marital status, education attainment, and personal income) at wave 3 were included as covariates.
Results: From the mean distribution of levels of alcohol use and depressive symptoms, this study found that White women reported greater levels of alcohol use and lower levels of depressive symptoms than their African American counterparts over the course of seven years. From the autoregressive, cross-lagged path models, this study found that both groups of women showed significant associations between childhood experiences of sexual/physical violence and subsequent development of depressive symptoms. However, White and African American women showed different associations between childhood experiences of sexual/physical violence and alcohol use during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Childhood sexual/physical violence increased the risk of alcohol use directly in adolescence (β=.02, p <.05) and continued into young adulthood for White women (β=.08, p <.001). However, for African American women, childhood sexual/physical violence increased the risk of alcohol use only in adolescence (β=22, p <.05). Unlike White women, increased levels of alcohol use of African American women did not continued to young adulthood.
Conclusions: This study adds to the literature on racial/ethnic differences in longitudinal effects of childhood experiences of sexual/physical violence on alcohol use and depressive symptoms during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Findings of this study highlight the importance of designing and providing effective prevention and treatment programs for women who experienced childhood sexual/physical violence to interrupt subsequent development of alcohol use and depressive symptoms.