Teen dating violence and substance use following a natural disaster: does evacuation status matter?

Am J Disaster Med. 2011 Jul-Aug;6(4):201-6. doi: 10.5055/ajdm.2011.0059.


Objectives: In September 2008, the Texas coast was directly hit by Hurricane Ike. Galveston Island was flooded by 4.25 m of storm surge, affecting most of the island's housing and infrastructure. The purpose of this study is to examine whether youth who did not evacuate (11 percent), and subsequently were exposed to Hurricane Ike, exhibit higher rates of substance use and physical and sexual teen dating violence (TDV; both perpetration and victimization) when compared with adolescents who did evacuate.

Setting: Public high school in southeast Texas that was in the direct path of Hurricane Ike.

Participants: An anonymous survey was conducted in March 2009 to 1,048 high school students who returned to the Galveston Island post-storm (41 percent Hispanic, 23 percent African American, and 27 percent White).

Main outcome measures: Teen dating violence and substance use.

Results: Mantel-Haenszel odds ratios, adjusting for age and ethnicity, were computed. When compared with boys who evacuated, nonevacuating boys were more likely to perpetrate physical dating violence and sexual assault and to be a victim of sexual assault. Nonevacuating boys and girls were more likely to report recent use of excessive alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine than those who did evacuate.

Conclusions: School personnel, medical personnel, and mental health service providers should consider screening for evacuation status in seeking to identify those adolescents who most need services after a natural disaster. In addition to addressing internalized emotions and psychological symptoms associated with experiencing trauma, intervention programs should focus on reducing externalized behavior such as substance use and TDV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Courtship*
  • Cyclonic Storms*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Texas
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*