Patterns of adverse childhood experiences and substance use among young adults: A latent class analysis

Addict Behav. 2018 Mar;78:187-192. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.11.020. Epub 2017 Nov 13.


Introduction: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been strongly linked with subsequent substance use. The aim of this study was to investigate how different patterns of ACEs influence substance use in young adulthood.

Methods: Using a community sample of young individuals (N=336; ages 18-25), we performed latent class analyses (LCA) to identify homogenous groups of young people with similar patterns of ACEs. Exposure to ACEs incorporates 13 childhood adversities including childhood maltreatment, household dysfunction, and community violence. Multiple linear and logistic regression models were used in an effort to examine the associations between ACEs classes and four young adult outcomes such as alcohol-related problems, current tobacco use, drug dependence symptoms, and psychological distress.

Results: LCA identified four heterogeneous classes of young people distinguished by different patterns of ACEs exposure: Low ACEs (56%), Household Dysfunction/Community Violence (14%), Emotional ACEs (14%), and High/Multiple ACEs (16%). Multiple regression analyses found that compared to those in the Low ACEs class, young adults in the High/Multiple ACEs class reported more alcohol-related problems, current tobacco use, and psychological symptoms, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and common risk factors for substance use such as peer substance use.

Conclusions: Our findings confirm that for many young people, ACEs occur as multiple rather than single experiences. The results of this research suggest that exposure to poly-victimization during childhood is particularly related to substance use during young adulthood.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experience; Alcohol; Child maltreatment; Latent class analysis; Substance use; Tobacco.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events / psychology
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Exposure to Violence / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Abuse / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Young Adult