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The Relationship Between Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Substance Use Among Adolescents Involved with Child Welfare: Implications for Emerging Adulthood

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to examine the role of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in predicting substance use and substance-related problems in a sample of older youth and emerging adults involved with child welfare. The sample was drawn from the Maltreatment and Adolescent Pathways (MAP) longitudinal study (Wekerle et al. 2009). Participants were 253 youth and emerging adults (ages 15–20; M = 16.87, SD = 1.04; 61.4% female and 38.6% male) who were involved with child welfare. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the impact of PTSS using subscales from the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC; Briere 1996). Outcome variables were past year alcohol, marijuana and illicit drug use; as well as alcohol and drug problems. Controlling for gender, age, child welfare status and child maltreatment, both dissociation and anger emerged as significant predictors of substance use and related problems. The implications of these findings for older youth and emerging adults exiting the child welfare system are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

Dr. Goldstein was supported by a Connaught Foundation Start-Up Award. The MAP Longitudinal Study (Dr. Wekerle, PI) has received funding from: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, The Ministry of Child and Youth Services Ontario, The Ontario Mental Health Foundation, The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Centre of Excellence in Child and Youth Mental Health, CIHR/Ontario Women’s Health Council Mid-Career Award (to Dr. Wekerle), The Public Health Agency of Canada (Interchange Assignment to Dr. Wekerle) and the Centre for Excellence in Research in Child Welfare.

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Correspondence to Abby L. Goldstein.

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Goldstein, A.L., Wekerle, C., Tonmyr, L. et al. The Relationship Between Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Substance Use Among Adolescents Involved with Child Welfare: Implications for Emerging Adulthood. Int J Ment Health Addiction 9, 507–524 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-011-9331-8

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Keywords

  • Substance use
  • PTSD
  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare
  • Adolescence
  • Emerging adulthood