Poly-victimization and risk of posttraumatic, depressive, and substance use disorders and involvement in delinquency in a national sample of adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Jun;46(6):545-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.212. Epub 2010 Jan 29.


Purpose: Adolescents exposed to multiple forms of psychological trauma ("poly-victimization," Finkelhor et al. Child Abuse Negl 2007;31:7-26) may be at high risk for psychiatric and behavioral problems. This study empirically identifies trauma profiles in a national sample of adolescents to ascertain correlates of poly-victimization.

Methods: Latent Class analyses and logistic regression analyses were used with data from the National Survey of Adolescents to identify trauma profiles and each profile's risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, substance use disorders, and delinquency involvement and deviant peer group relationships. Poly-victimization classes were also compared to classes with trauma exposure of lesser complexity.

Results: Six mutually exclusive trauma profiles (latent classes) were identified. Four classes were characterized by high likelihood of poly-victimization, including abuse victims (8%), physical assault victims (9%), and community violence victims (15.5%). Poly-victimization class members, especially abuse and assault victims, were more likely than do youth traumatized by witnessing violence or exposure to disaster/accident trauma to have psychiatric diagnosis and (independent of psychiatric diagnoses or demographics) to be involved in delinquency with delinquent peers.

Conclusions: Poly-victimization is prevalent among adolescents and places youth at high risk for psychiatric impairment and for delinquency. Moreover, poly-victimized youths' risk of delinquency cannot be fully accounted for by posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, or substance use problems, suggesting that adolescent healthcare providers should consider poly-victimization as a risk for behavioral and legal problems even when PTSD, depression, or addiction symptoms are not clinically significant.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*