This project focuses on clarifying pathways that lead to adult substance abuse, a public health target. Evidence based largely on the reports of adult substance users in treatment programs indicates that, compared with the general population, a higher percentage of adult substance abusers report that they were maltreated in childhood. However, the association between childhood maltreatment and adult substance abuse is not as clear when official prospective data on child maltreatment is used. Studies show either no relationship between childhood maltreatment and adult substance abuse or a weaker relationship when compared with data on childhood maltreatment derived from the retrospective self-reports of adults. These differences raise the question of whether mental processes such as memory, cognition, and perception play a role in the impact of childhood maltreatment on substance abuse. A greater understanding of what predicts, and, equally important, what might prevent a trajectory from childhood maltreatment to adult substance abuse would provide more specific targets for prevention efforts. In addition, understanding how personal construction of negative childhood events may contribute to addictive behaviors in adults has implications for effective treatment. ? ? The proposed dissertation will use data from the first two generations of the Rochester Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of an urban sample of 1,000 participants designed to over-represent those at high risk for antisocial behavior. The original cohort of male and female adolescents has been interviewed for over 17 years with low attrition, and includes a high proportion of minority participants. Within the context of development of drug and alcohol use and abuse from early adolescence through young adulthood, the proposed dissertation will focus on two related questions. The first is the extent to which perception of childhood maltreatment, or, in other words, identifying oneself as having been maltreated in childhood is associated with early adult substance abuse. The second is, given a similar history of childhood maltreatment, what factors predict a differing perception of childhood maltreatment in young adults.
The specific aims of the study are as follows: ? 1. Investigate whether an adult perception of having been maltreated in childhood is associated with early adult substance use problems over and above reported events of childhood maltreatment. ? 2. Investigate whether parent-adolescent attachment is associated with the relationship between childhood maltreatment, adult perception of maltreatment, and substance use problems. ? 3. Examine gender differences in the pathways from childhood maltreatment to adult substance use problems described above. ? ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Dissertation Award (R36)
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Human Development Research Subcommittee (NIDA)
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Price, Leshawndra N
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State University of New York at Albany
Schools of Social Work
United States
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Elwyn, Laura; Smith, Carolyn (2013) Child Maltreatment and Adult Substance Abuse: The Role of Memory. J Soc Work Pract Addict 13:
Smith, Carolyn A; Elwyn, Laura J; Ireland, Timothy O et al. (2010) Impact of adolescent exposure to intimate partner violence on substance use in early adulthood. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 71:219-30