Background: Previous research has documented a relationship between child sexual abuse and alcohol dependence. This paper extends that work by providing a comprehensive description of past year and lifetime alcohol consumption patterns, consequences, and dependence among women reporting either physical and sexual abuse in a national sample.
Methods: This study used survey data from 3,680 women who participated in the 2005 U.S. National Alcohol Survey. Information on physical and sexual child abuse and its characteristics were assessed in relation to 8 past year and lifetime alcohol consumption measures.
Results: Child physical or sexual abuse was significantly associated with past year and lifetime alcohol consumption measures. In multivariate analyses, controlling for age, marital status, employment status, education, ethnicity, and parental alcoholism or problem drinking, women reporting child sexual abuse vs. no abuse were more likely to report past year heavy episodic drinking (OR(adj) = 1.7; 95% CI 1.0 to 2.9), alcohol dependence (OR(adj) = 7.2; 95% CI 3.2 to 16.5), and alcohol consequences (OR(adj) = 3.6; 95% CI 1.8 to 7.3). Sexual abuse (vs. no abuse) was associated with a greater number of past year drinks (124 vs. 74 drinks, respectively, p = 0.002). Sexual child abuse was also associated with lifetime alcohol-related consequences (OR(adj) = 3.5; 95% CI 2.6 to 4.8) and dependence (OR(adj) = 3.7; 95% CI 2.6 to 5.3). Physical child abuse was associated with 4 of 8 alcohol measures in multivariate models. Both physical and sexual child abuse were associated with getting into fights, health, legal, work, and family alcohol-related consequences. Alcohol-related consequences and dependence were more common for women reporting sexual abuse compared to physical abuse, 2 or more physical abuse perpetrators, nonparental and nonfamily physical abuse perpetrators, and women reporting injury related to the abuse.
Conclusion: Both child physical and sexual abuse were associated with many alcohol outcomes in adult women, even when controlling for parental alcohol problems. The study results point to the need to screen for and treat underlying issues related to child abuse, particularly in an alcohol treatment setting.
Copyright © 2010 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.