The Differential Contribution of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Perceived Discrimination on Substance Use among Hispanic Emerging Adults

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2021 Nov-Dec;53(5):422-430. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2021.1986242. Epub 2021 Oct 27.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are widely documented risk factors for substance use among Hispanic emerging adults. Studies seldom examine whether distinct ACEs differentially relate to substance use in emerging adulthood, and if said association varies in the context of additional stressors disproportionately experienced by Hispanic people. This examination is necessary for understanding the etiology of substance use disorders and related outcomes among Hispanic individuals. Using a sample of Hispanic emerging adults, the goals of this study were two-fold. First, it examined differences in substance use between subgroups of varying ACEs. Second, it assessed whether substance use in the presence of discrimination differed between ACE subgroups. Latent class analysis identified two emerging ACE subgroups: [1] Parental Separation and [2] Physical & Emotional. On average, individuals in the Physical & Emotional subgroup endorsed a higher likelihood of tobacco, cannabis, and illegal drug use than those in the Parental Separation subgroup. For the latter, the likelihood of binge drinking was higher than that of the Physical & Emotional subgroup if they also perceived discrimination in emerging adulthood. These findings highlight the importance of considering the intersection of multiple social determinants of health for understanding the lifetime risk of substance use among Hispanic individuals.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences; Hispanic emerging adults; discrimination; substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Perceived Discrimination
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / epidemiology