The effects of child abuse and race on risk-taking in male adolescents

J Natl Med Assoc. 1993 Aug;85(8):593-7.


This study explores the effects of abuse on the risk-taking behaviors of 2973 black and white adolescent males, 412 of whom were sexually or physically abused. Surveys on mental and physical health, risk-taking behaviors and attitudes, and family living were administered to 9th and 12th graders in an urban midwestern state. The surveys included questions on past history of sexual and physical abuse. More black than white males reported experiencing incest, extrafamilial sexual abuse, and physical abuse. As for outcome risk-taking behaviors, blacks were more likely to use illegal substances, run away, skip school, attempt suicide, force partners into sex, and commit violent acts; however, the racial effects decreased when abuse histories were taken into consideration. Whites were more likely to drink and drive, and to drink before having sex; abuse history did not decrease this racial effect. Abuse but not race was predictive of drinking and of having serious drinking problems. The results point to the importance of pediatricians, psychologists, and other healthcare workers, as well as those in the legal and criminal justice system screening for a history of abuse among adolescents who demonstrate these or other risk-taking behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Black or African American
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / ethnology
  • Male
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • White People