Linking Patterns of Substance Use With Sexual Risk-Taking Among Female Adolescents With and Without Histories of Maltreatment

J Adolesc Health. 2018 May;62(5):556-562. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.11.293. Epub 2018 Feb 1.


Purpose: This study aimed to determine the associations between patterns of substance use and sexual risk-taking among female adolescents with and without histories of maltreatment.

Methods: Data are from a prospective cohort study examining the impact of maltreatment on subsequent female adolescent sexual health (N = 504). Participants averaged 18.24 years in age (SD = 1.12), and approximately 63% had substantiated incidences of maltreatment filed with Child Protective Services prior to age 18. The present study used latent class analysis to examine patterns in adolescent substance use, and negative binomial regression models to examine the links between patterns of substance use and sexual risk-taking and to determine whether these associations were moderated by adolescents' maltreatment status.

Results: Six classes emerged from latent class analysis labeled as follows: abstainers (25% of sample); polysubstance users-early initiators (13%); polysubstance users-late initiators (23%); alcohol and cannabis users-late initiators (9%); alcohol users-late initiators (18%); and tobacco users (12%). Patterns of adolescent polysubstance use were associated with the highest levels of sexual risk-taking, and patterns of late-initiated polysubstance use, late-initiated alcohol use, and tobacco use were more strongly related to sexual risk-taking for female adolescents with histories of maltreatment.

Conclusions: This study is the first to determine the specific patterns of substance use that are more strongly related to sexual risk-taking for maltreated female adolescents. By doing so, this study demonstrates how a person-centered approach can facilitate our understanding of how to best leverage sexual risk-taking prevention efforts.

Keywords: Adolescence; Latent class analysis; Maltreatment; Sexual risk-taking; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Risk Behaviors*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires