By now, you should be aware that the findings from a research study are only part of the story. As a consumer, hoping to inform practice by use of an evidence base, you want to know much more. A sound research study includes all the steps highlighted in previous weeks: reviewing existing literature, focusing a research question, choosing a qualitative or quantitative method for answering the question, designing the study including selection of data collection procedures and/or measures, procedures used, data analysis plan, and findings. In addition, the study commonly discusses how ethical concerns were addressed and acknowledges the limitations of the study. For this assignment, you review a published research study with two purposes in mind:
Submit a 7-10 page critique and review of the article, which includes the title page and the reference list. Follow the guidelines below:
Be sure to include the questions in your critique. This will cause your SafeAssign report to show high similarity to other students' papers. However, do not be concerned about that. Do, however, appropriately paraphrase and cite specific details from the article you review.
PTSD Symptoms Mediate the Relationship Between Sexual Abuse and Substance Use Risk in Juvenile Justice–Involved Youth
Jasmyn Sanders 1 , Alexandra R. Hershberger
2 , Haley M. Kolp
3 , Miji Um
Matthew Aalsma 4 , and Melissa A. Cyders
Abstract Juvenile justice–involved youth face disproportionate rates of sexual abuse, which increases the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUDs), both of which are associated with poor long-term outcomes. The present study tested two mediation and moderation models, controlling for age, race, and history of physical abuse, with gender as a moderator, to determine whether PTSD symptoms serve as a risk factor and/or mechanism in the relationship between sexual abuse and substance use. Data were examined for 197 juvenile justice–involved youth (mean age ¼ 15.45, 68.9% non-White, 78.4% male) that completed court-ordered psychological assessments. Results indicated that PTSD symptoms significantly mediated the relationship between sexual abuse and drug (b ¼ 3.44, confidence interval [CI] [0.26, 7.41]; test for indirect effect z ¼ 2.41, p ¼ .02) and alcohol use (b ¼ 1.42, CI [0.20, 3.46]; test for indirect effect z ¼ 2.23, p ¼ .03). PTSD symptoms and gender were not significant moderators. Overall, PTSD symptoms mediate the relationship between sexual abuse and SUDs in juvenile justice–involved youth, which suggests viability of targeting PTSD symptoms as a modifiable risk factor to reduce the effects of sexual abuse on substance use in this high-risk population.
Keywords sexual abuse, substance use, PTSD, youth, juvenile justice
Substance use disorders (SUDs) occur in approximately 60% of juvenile justice–involved youth (Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration, 2016; Teplin et al., 2005).
This is particularly problematic, as juvenile justice–involved
youth with SUDs face a host of negative outcomes, some of
which include increased likelihood of having a co-occurring
severe mental illness (e.g., manic episode and psychosis;
Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002),
increased likelihood of recidivism (Conrad, Tolou-Shams,
Rizzo, Placella, & Brown, 2014), and increased likelihood of
engagement in sexual risk-taking behaviors, compared to youth
in the general population (Teplin et al., 2005). Although there
are multiple potential explanations for the high prevalence of
SUDs in this population, such as genetic risk or social norms in
line with substance use (Kendler, Prescott, Myers, & Neale,
2003), emerging research suggests sexual abuse victimization
may be one risk factor for the development of SUDs in juvenile
The prevalence of sexual abuse victimization in juvenile
justice–involved youth is high, with 31% of girls and 15% of boys (Baglivio et al., 2014; Dierkhising et al., 2013) in the
juvenile justice system reporting a history of sexual abuse.
Extensive research on adolescent and adult populations demon-
strate that a history of sexual abuse is associated with a host of
negative outcomes (Finkelhor, Cross, & Cantor, 2005; Mullers
& Dowling, 2008) including increased engagement in risky
sexual behaviors (Ruffolo, Sarri, & Goodkind, 2004; Saar,
Epstein, Rosenthal, & Vafa, 2015; Smith, Leve, & Chamber-
lain, 2006; Townsend, 2013), a greater vulnerability to revicti-
mization (Townsend, 2013), and increased rates of delinquency
and criminal behavior (Asscher, Van der Put, & Stams, 2015;
Baglivio et al., 2014; Townsend, 2013; Widom & Maxfield,
Importantly, sexual abuse is related to problematic sub-
stance use (Townsend, 2013). Adolescents with a history of
sexual abuse are 4 times more likely to have an SUD and nearly
1 Department of Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA
2 Department of Psychology, Indiana University—Purdue University,
Indianapolis, IN, USA 3 Department of Psychology, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA
4 Section of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University
School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA
Alexandra R. Hershberger, Department of Psychology, Indiana University—
Purdue University, 402 North Blackford Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.
Email: [email protected]
Child Maltreatment 2018, Vol. 23(3) 226-233 ª The Author(s) 2017 Reprints and permission: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1077559517745154 journals.sagepub.com/home/cmx
3 times more likely to report problematic substance use in
adulthood in comparison to members of the general population
(Townsend, 2013). In addition, victims of sexual abuse begin
experimenting with drugs at a younger age (13.7 years old)
compared to those adolescents who are not victims of sexual
abuse (15.1 years old; Kingston & Raghavan, 2009; Townsend,
2013), and this earlier onset of substance use is associated with
a higher likelihood of developing an SUD (Moss, Chen, & Yi,
2014). Furthermore, substance use among sexual abuse victims
increases the likelihood of engaging in criminal activity
(Widom & White, 1997) and further exacerbates already
high recidivism rates among juvenile justice–involved youth
(Conrad et al., 2014).
One way in which sexual abuse may be related to substance
use in juvenile justice–involved youth is through the experience
of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. It is possible
that PTSD symptoms strengthen the relationship between sexual
abuse and substance use, as the experience of PTSD symptoms
could lead to substance use via self-medication (e.g., Wolitzky-
Taylor, Bobova, Zinbarg, Mineka, & Craske, 2012) in sexually
abused juvenile justice–involved youth. Thus, PTSD symptoms
in sexually abused juvenile justice–involved youth could serve
as a risk indicator for subsequent substance use. Additionally,
PTSD symptoms could have a mechanistic role between sexual
abuse and substance use in juvenile justice–involved youth, by
which decreasing PTSD symptoms could serve to mitigate sub-
stance use risk associated with sexual abuse. Regardless if PTSD
symptoms serve as a risk factor or mechanism in the relationship
between sexual abuse and substance use in juvenile justice–
involved youth, PTSD symptoms are a modifiable factor that
could be targeted through treatment, potentially decreasing the
relationship between sexual abuse and substance use and asso-
ciated negative outcomes.
Importantly, there is a burgeoning area of research that spe-
cifically aims to reduce PTSD symptoms in juvenile justice–
involved youth. Treatments, such as trauma affect regulation:
guide for education and therapy (TARGET; Ford, Chang,
Levine, & Zhang, 2013) and cognitive processing therapy
(CPT; Matulis, Resick, Rosner, & Steil, 2014), show initial
promise in reducing PTSD symptoms in juvenile justice–
involved youth, including those who have experienced sexual
abuse. An unexplored benefit of such treatments, however, is if
reductions in PTSD symptoms serve to mitigate substance use
risk associated with sexual abuse in juvenile justice–involved
youth. Determining whether PTSD symptoms serve to
strengthen or mediate the relationship between sexual abuse
and substance use in juvenile justice–involved youth is an
important step in clarifying treatment models for sexual abuse
victims in this high-risk population.
The goal of the current study was to test two alternative
models to better understand the way in which PTSD symptoms
might influence the relationship between sexual abuse and sub-
stance use in juvenile justice–involved youth. Specifically, we
examined the following research questions: (1) Is the relation-
ship between sexual abuse and substance use stronger in the
presence of PTSD symptoms (i.e., moderation) and (2) Is
sexual abuse related to substance use through PTSD symptoms
(i.e., mediation). Additionally, we examined each research
question with gender as a moderator. Differing base rates of
study variables by gender, such as sexual abuse (Baglivio et al.,
2014; Dierkhising et al., 2013), and varying mechanisms
thought to underlie posttraumatic stress responses by gender
(Norr, Albanese, Boffa, Short, & Schmidt, 2016), for example,
could result in varying relationships between sexual abuse,
PTSD symptoms, and substance use by gender. We also con-
trolled for history of physical abuse, as polyvictimization, par-
ticularly through multiple forms of abuse, is related to
psychological disorders and problems (e.g., substance use,
PTSD symptoms; Ford, Elhai, Connor, & Frueh, 2010).
This study is the first step in a program of research that seeks
to examine PTSD as a modifiable risk factor to reduce the
effects of sexual abuse on substance use in this high-risk pop-
ulation. We chose to examine PTSD as a moderator and med-
iator in the current sample, as opposed to alternative causal
models, given data that (1) sexual abuse typically temporally
precedes PTSD development (although PTSD does increase the
risk of revictimization) and (2) substance use is often a symp-
tom or result of PTSD.
Data were taken from existing charts of 247 juvenile justice–
involved youth in a Midwestern city, who were court ordered to
complete a psychological assessment between 2009 and 2016.
Youth completed integrated assessments, and a subset of that
data are included in the current report. Data from the assess-
ments were deidentified, and analysis of this archival data was
approved by the institutional review board.
Demographics. Youth reported their age, gender (girl or boy), and race.
PTSD. First, PTSD symptoms were assessed through the Youth Self-Report (YSR; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). The YSR is
self-report assessment in which youth rate themselves on var-
ious behavioral and emotional problems. Response options
range from 0 (not true) to 2 (very often or often true), and
scores are converted to t scores. For the PTSD Scale, t scores
<65 are considered to fall in the “normal” range, and t scores
over 65 correspond with increases in symptom severity. The
YSR has shown good reliability (e.g., Ebesutani, Berstein,
Martinez, Chorpita, & Weisz, 2011). Further, the YSR has been
validated for use in samples of juvenile justice–involved youth
(Vreugdenhil, van den Brink, Ferdinand, Wouters, & Dorelei-
jers, 2006). PTSD symptoms were used as a variable in anal-
yses for the present study.
Second, PTSD diagnosis (distinct from the YSR PTSD
Scale score) was made by a licensed clinical psychologist con-
ducting or supervising each youth’s assessment. Diagnoses
Sanders et al. 227
were based on a structured clinical interview and YSR corre-
spondence with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, Version IV, Revised (DSM-IV-TR), (American Psy-
chiatric Association, 2000) or Diagnostic and Statistical Man-
ual of Mental Disorders, Version 5 (DSM-5), (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013). Due to differences in diagnos-
tic criteria between DSM versions and limited variability in
dichotomous diagnoses, our analyses focused on the YSR
PTSD score. PTSD diagnosis was used as a descriptive mea-
sure for the present study and not examined in study analyses.
Substance use. First, substance use (illicit drug use and alcohol use) was assessed through the Adolescent Substance Use
Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-A2; Miller & Lazowski,
2001). The SASSI-A2 is a self-report questionnaire for which
youth self-report various substance use–related behaviors. The
present study examined substance use using the Face Valid
Other Drugs (FVOD; e.g., “Taken drugs to improve your think-
ing and feeling,” “Taken drugs so you could enjoy sex more”;
Miller, Renn, & Lazowski, 2001) Scale and the Face Valid
Alcohol (FVA; e.g., “Tried to kill yourself while drunk,”
“Drank alcohol during the day”; Miller et al., 2001) Scale of
the SASSI-A2, with each scale assessing substance use–related
problems on a scale from 0 (never) to 3 (repeatedly). Results
are provided as t scores based on norms derived from an ado-
lescent sample (mean age ¼ 15, standard deviation [SD] ¼ 1.9) across addiction treatment centers, inpatient psychiatric hospi-
tals, outpatient behavioral health facilities, and juvenile correc-
tions programs. The SASSI-A2 FVA and FVOD Scales have
demonstrated acceptable to excellent reliability (a ¼ .61 and .95, respectively; Perera-Diltz & Perry, 2011) and test–retest
reliability (rs ¼ .71 and .92, respectively; Miller & Lazowski, 2001; Stein et al., 2005).
Second, an SUD diagnosis (distinct from the SASSI-A2
Scales) was made by a licensed clinical psychologist conduct-
ing or supervising each youth’s assessment. Diagnoses were
based on a structured clinical interview and SASSI-A2 corre-
spondence with DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Associa-
tion, 2000) or DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association,
2013). Due to differences in diagnostic criteria between DSM
versions and limited variability in dichotomous diagnoses, our
analyses focused on the SASSI-A2 scores. An SUD diagnosis
was used as a descriptive measure for the present study and not
examined in study analyses.
Sexual abuse. Youth self-reported their history of sexual abuse through a structured clinical interview. Sexual abuse was coded
as either reporting or not reporting sexual abuse. Additionally,
the relationship of alleged perpetrator to the victim of sexual
abuse was recorded (e.g., parent, paramour, relative).
Physical abuse. Youth self-reported their history of physical abuse through a structured clinical interview. Physical abuse
was coded as either reporting or not reporting physical abuse
and used as a covariate in analyses.
Youth in the present sample were involved with the juvenile
court (e.g., through arrest, probation violation) and referred to
complete a court-ordered psychological assessment. Following
the referral, a licensed clinical psychologist or supervised doc-
toral student reported to the Juvenile Detention Center or the
youth’s current placement (e.g., group home, family home) to
complete the assessment. Clinicians conducted a structured
clinical interview and administered assessment measures,
including the YSR, SASSI-A2, and other measures unrelated
to the present study and not reported elsewhere. Clinicians used
assessment information to compile an integrated report for each
youth, which was submitted to the Marion County Juvenile
Court upon completion. Trained research assistants entered
YSR and SASSI-A2 data taken directly from the assessment
reports for each youth. Additionally, research assistants coded
whether or not the youth reported ever experiencing sexual
abuse (any form of illegal sex act conducted against the youth)
or physical abuse (any form of illegal physical act conducted
against the youth, not including physical altercations between
peers) based on the background information provided in the
assessment report. Twenty percent of the data were recoded
for interrater reliability. There were no discrepancies between
coders on study variables.
First, we examined sample characteristics stratified across sex-
ual abuse and gender. Second, we conducted moderated regres-
sion analyses using Hayes’s (2013) process macro, controlling
for age, race, and history of physical abuse (0 ¼ no abuse, 1 ¼ abuse), with sexual abuse (0 ¼ no abuse, 1 ¼ abuse) entered as the independent variable, PTSD symptoms (YSR PTSD Scale)
entered as the moderator, and gender (0 ¼ boys, 1 ¼ girls) entered as a second moderator (three-way interaction). Two
analyses were conducted with drug use and alcohol use as
dependent variables in separate models. Third, we conducted
moderated mediation analyses using Hayes’s (2013) process
macro, controlling for age, race, and history of physical abuse,
with sexual abuse entered as the independent variable, PTSD
symptoms entered as the mediator, and gender entered as a
moderator of the relationship between the independent and
dependent variable. Two analyses were conducted with drug
use and alcohol use as dependent variables in separate models.
Of the 247 youth completing court-ordered psychological
assessments, 197 provided data for PTSD Scales, drug use, and
alcohol use, making the final sample N ¼ 197 (mean age ¼ 15.45, SD ¼ 1.31, range ¼ 13–18; 61.6% Black, 21.6% White, 3.2% Hispanic, 4.1% multiracial; 9.5% not specified; 78.4% male). Those youth who were not administered measures of
PTSD, drug use, or alcohol use did not differ significantly in
228 Child Maltreatment 23(3)
age or gender from youth who completed these measures.
Those completing the drug and alcohol use scales were more
likely to have a cannabis use disorder diagnosis compared to
those not completing (w2 ¼ 7.29, p ¼ .007). The majority of the sample was non-White (68.9%) and male (79.5%). The major- ity of assessments were conducted at the juvenile detention
center (82.1%) with youths having an average of six (SD ¼ 3.80) criminal referrals to the court. Of the 197 youth, 17.3% were diagnosed with PTSD, and 44.7% were diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder, with a small proportion meeting criteria
for alcohol use disorder (3%) and stimulant use disorder (1.5%).
Average drug use score was 56.32 (SD ¼ 12.67, range ¼ 6– 96), average alcohol use score was 45.75 (SD ¼ 7.10, range ¼ 39–95), and average PTSD score was 60.49 (SD ¼ 9.99, range ¼ 50–95). Alcohol use, drug use, and PTSD Scales were all significantly correlated (rs ¼ .31–.52, ps < .05; see Table 1).
A total of 13.2% of the sample reported any history of sexual abuse (7.8% of boys and 33.3% of girls in the sample) and 16% of the sample reported any history of physical abuse. A total of
2.9% of youth reported a history of both physical and sexual abuse. Girls were more likely than boys to report a history of
sexual abuse (w2 ¼ 17.73, p < .001) and physical abuse (w2 ¼ 5.97, p ¼ .02), and boys and girls were similarly likely to report a history of both physical and sexual abuse (w2 ¼ 2.57, p ¼ .11; see Table 2). Youth who reported a history of sexual abuse
were more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD compared to those
not reporting a history of sexual abuse (w2 ¼ 9.43, p < .002). Youth reporting only physical abuse (and not sexual abuse)
compared to youth reporting sexual abuse (and not physical
abuse) did not differ significantly in rate of PTSD diagnosis
(w2 ¼ 1.99, p ¼ .16), but youth reporting sexual abuse (and not physical abuse) scored higher on the PTSD Scale, t(41) ¼ �1.89, falling short of significance (p ¼ .07).
Table 1. Correlation Between Study Variables.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. Age �.06 �.06 .09 .06 .0 .009 �.02 �.06 2. PTSD score — .18* .31** .10 .41** .06 �.06 .006 3. PTSD diagnosis — — �.03 �.08 .02 �.02 �.02 .09 4. FVA score — — .53** .52** �.007 �.04 .03 5. Alcohol use disorder diagnosis — — — — .27** �.002 �.02 �.001 6. FVOD score — — — — — .29** �.04 .06 7. Cannabis or other illicit drug use disorder diagnosis — — — — — — �.07 �.18* 8. Sexual abuse — — — — — — — �.03 9. Physical abuse
Note. PTSD ¼ post-traumatic stress disorder; FVA ¼ Face Valid Alcohol; FVOD ¼ Face Valid Other Drugs. *p < .05. **p < .001.
Table 2. Sample Characteristics by Sexual Abuse and Gender.
Boys (n ¼ 153) Girls (n ¼ 42) Test Statistic p Sexual Abuse No Sexual Abuse Test Statistic p
PTSD Scale 60.50 (10.30) 60.45 (8.88) 0.03 .98 65.27 (12.69) 59.77 (9.35) �2.66 .009 FVA (alcohol use) 45.06 (5.90) 48.29 (10.10) �2.65 .009 47.77 (7.83) 45.44 (6.96) �1.57 .12 FVOD (drug use) 56.60 (12.89) 55.31 (11.91) 0.59 .56 56.00 (11.56) 56.37 (12.86) 0.14 .89 PTSD diagnosis 13.5% 31% 7.01 .008 38.46% 14.03% 9.43 .002 Sexual abuse only 5.84% 26.32% 17.73 <.001 Physical abuse only 10.95% 21.05% 5.97 .02 Sexual and physical abuse 2.19% 5.26% 2.57 .11 Cannabis use disorder 46.45% 38.09% 0.93 .33 38% 45.6% 0.47 .49 Stimulant use disorder 1.3% 2.4% 0.26 .61 0 3.5% 0.46 .50 Alcohol use disorder 3.2% 2.4% 0.08 .78 0 3.5% 0.94 .33
Sexual Abuse Perpetrator Boys (n ¼ 14) Girls (n ¼ 17) Parent or paramour 21.4% 27.8% 0.17 .68 Adult relative 14.3% 5.6% 0.71 .40 Known adult nonrelative 28.6% 22.2% 0.17 .68 Adult stranger 7.1% 5.6% 0.03 .85 Child relative 28.6% 5.6% 3.16 .08 Known child nonrelative 14.3% 22.2% 0.33 .57
Note. Ranges for scale scores were as follows: PTSD YSR scale score ¼ 0–95; FVA ¼ 0–95; FVOD ¼ 6–96. Boys reports of sexual abuse n ¼ 14, girls reports of sexual abuse n ¼ 17. PTSD ¼ post-traumatic stress disorder; FVA ¼ Face Valid Alcohol; FVOD ¼ Face Valid Other Drugs; YSR ¼ Youth Self-Report. Significant p-values at the p<.05 level are bolded.
Sanders et al. 229
Moderation analyses: Is the relationship between sexual abuse and substance use stronger in the presence of PTSD symptoms and variable by gender?
Drug use. First, sexual abuse was not significantly related to drug use (b ¼ 10.69, p ¼ .60). Second, PTSD symptoms were significantly related to drug use (b ¼ 0.66, p < .001). Third, PTSD symptoms did not significantly moderate the relation-
ship between sexual abuse and drug use (b ¼�0.27, p ¼ .35). Fourth, gender did not significantly moderate the overall model
for drug use (b ¼ 0.64, p ¼ .24). Alcohol use. First, sexual abuse was not significantly related
to alcohol use (b ¼ 16.08, p ¼ .18). Second, PTSD symptoms were significantly related to alcohol use (b ¼ 0.23, p < .001). Third, PTSD symptoms did not significantly moderate the rela-
tionship between sexual abuse and alcohol use (b¼�0.22, p ¼ .17). Fourth, gender did not significantly moderate the overall
model for alcohol use (b ¼ 0.40, p ¼ .20).
Moderation mediation analyses: Is sexual abuse related to substance use through PTSD symptoms and does this vary by gender?
Drug use. First, sexual abuse was significantly related to PTSD symptoms (b ¼ 5.86, p ¼ .009). Second, PTSD symp- toms were significantly related to drug use (b¼ 0.59, p < .001). Third, sexual abuse was negatively related to drug use (b ¼ �7.52, p ¼ .05). Fourth, the relationship between sexual abuse and drug use was not moderated by gender (b ¼ 9.02, p ¼ .11).
Fifth, PTSD significantly mediated the relationship between
sexual abuse and drug use (b ¼ 3.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] ¼ [0.26, 7.41]; test of indirect effect z ¼ 2.41, p ¼ .02; see Figure 1).
Alcohol use. First, sexual abuse was significantly related to PTSD symptoms (b ¼ 5.86, p ¼ .009). Second, PTSD symp- toms were significantly related to alcohol use (b ¼ 0.24, p < .001). Third, sexual abuse was not significantly related to alco-
hol use (b ¼�0.57, p ¼ .80). Fourth, the relationship between sexual abuse and alcohol use was not moderated by gender
(b ¼ 0.68, p ¼ .80). Fifth, PTSD significantly mediated the relationship between sexual abuse and alcohol use (b ¼ 1.42, 95% CI [0.20, 3.46]; test of indirect effect z ¼ 2.23, p ¼ .03; see Figure 1).
Juvenile justice–involved youth face a disproportionate amount
of negative outcomes compared to their same-age peers (e.g.,
Hershberger , Zapolski, & Aalsma, 2016; Fazel, Doll, & Lang-
strom, 2008) and exhibit high rates of sexual abuse, PTSD, and
substance use. Despite their high-risk nature, it is unclear how
best to reduce negative outcomes associated with sexual abuse
in juvenile justice–involved youth. There are viable treatments
targeting trauma, including sexual abuse, in this population
(e.g., Ford et al., 2013; Matulis et al., 2014), which reduce
PTSD symptoms; however, this study is unique in that it sug-
gests targeting PTSD symptoms as a means of reducing sexual
abuse–related substance use risk in juvenile justice–involved
youth. These findings provide support that not only may sexual
abuse serve as a risk indicator for PTSD and substance use in
juvenile justice–involved youth, but that PTSD may be a prime
modifiable risk factor to reduce the effects of sexual abuse on
subsequent substance use in this high-risk population. Once a
child experiences sexual abuse, it is no longer a preventable or
modifiable risk factor and intervening on substance use alone
underestimates the role PTSD symptomatology plays in the
onset and maintenance of substance use behaviors. PTSD
symptoms appear to mediate, rather than moderate, the rela-
tionship between sexual abuse and substance use in juvenile
justice–involved youth, which suggests that reducing PTSD
symptoms could protect against and reduce substance use in
this population. This is important, given the negative outcomes
associated with substance use in this high-risk group.
One likely explanation for the relationship between sexual
abuse and substance use through PTSD observed in the present
study is the self-medication hypothesis (Khantzian, 1987). The
self-medication hypothesis (Khantzian, 1987) indicates that
certain drugs are chosen deliberately by individuals who wish
to suppress or avoid their negative experiences and emotions.
Juvenile justice–involved youth often display high rates of
avoidant PTSD symptoms (Kerig & Becker, 2010), and sub-
stance use is often cited as one coping strategy used by sexually
victimized youth (Kilpatrick et al., 2003). Thus, juvenile jus-
tice–involved youth who are victims of sexual abuse may use
Figure 1. Results of mediation models run using Andrew Hayes process macro (Hayes, 2013), controlling for age, gender, and race. Top: Results indicated that the indirect effect of sexual abuse on drug use through post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) scores was sig- nificant (b ¼ 3.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] ¼ [0.26, 7.41]; test of indirect effect z ¼ 2.41, p ¼ .02). Bottom: Results indicated that the indirect effect of sexual abuse on alcohol use through PTSD scores was significant (b¼ 1.42, 95% CI [0.20, 3.46]; test of indirect effect z ¼ 2.23, p ¼ .03).
230 Child Maltreatment 23(3)
substances as a means to cope with or alleviate emotional dis-
tress. Interventions designed to provide more adaptive ways to
cope with or alleviate emotional distress have the potential to
reduce the reliance on substance use in this population.
Although previous research indicates mixed findings for the
relationship between PTSD and substance use in juvenile jus-
tice–involved youth (Abram et al., 2004; Danielson et al.,
2010; Dierkhising et al., 2013; Kingston & Raghavan, 2009;
Rosenberg et al., 2014), present findings support PTSD as a
proximal factor to substance use among youth who are victims
of sexual abuse.
Given that one way by which sexual abuse is related to
greater substance use is through the presence of greater PTSD
symptomology, it appears trauma-informed treatment could be
critical to reducing substance use in juvenile justice–involved
youth with sexual abuse. One well-studied model of trauma-
focused treatment for substance use is seeking safety (Najavits,
2002), and although this evidence-based treatment has not been
well-studied in juvenile justice–involved youth, it certainly
provides one framework for addressing issues highlighted in
the present study. Such therapies are easily implemented (Naja-
vits, Gallop, & Weiss, 2006) and provide psychoeducation on
the complex interplay between trauma and substance use. Risk
reduction through family therapy (Danielson et al., 2010;
Danielson et al., 2012) also demonstrates efficacy in reducing
substance use and PTSD symptoms in adolescent victims of
sexual assault, and such treatments could be expanded to exam-
ine efficacy in juvenile justice populations. Additionally, there
are trauma-related treatments for juvenile justice&#
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