Poly-Victimization and Substance Use Problems Among Justice-Involved Adolescents

Zoe R Feingold, Fordham University

Abstract

Substance use and substance use problems are highly prevalent among adolescents involved in the justice system (Mulvey, Schubert, & Chassin, 2010; Cauffman, Lexcen, Goldweber, Shulman, & Grisso, 2007), and represent a known risk factor juvenile offending and recidivism (e.g., Maldonado-Molina, Reingle, & Jennings, 2011; National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2004). Adolescents involved in the justice system also experience high rates of poly-victimization (i.e., the experience of multiple traumatic event exposures and/or adverse childhood experiences; Ford, Grasso, Hawke, & Chapman, 2013); however, the association between poly-victimization and substance use problems has not been thoroughly investigated in the literature. The aims of the present study were to (a) examine the relationship between poly-victimization and substance use problems among justice-involved adolescents and (b) test three possible mediators of this relationship. The study sample consisted of 197 justice-involved adolescents who completed mental health screening instruments upon intake into detention. Poly-victimization was classified based on latent class analysis performed on the same sample in a prior study (Cruise, Ford, Grasso, & Holloway, 2017). The “Poly-Victimization” (PV) class (n = 30; 15%) was compared to two other classes of youth: the “Stress/Adversity” (S/A) class (n = 40; 20%) and the “Community Violence/Attachment” (CV/A) class (n = 127; 64%). The association between poly-victimization and substance use problems was examined using a multiple regression model, and the PROCESS macro (Hayes, 2012) was utilized to test mental health symptoms (i.e., PTSD, depression/anxiety, anger/irritability symptoms) as mediators of the relationship between poly-victimization and substance use problems. Poly-victimization was found to predict substance use problems, as significantly fewer substance use problems were reported by adolescents in the S/A and CV/A classes compared to the PV class, even after controlling for relevant covariates (i.e., race and gender). Depression/anxiety and anger/irritability symptoms significantly mediated the relationship between poly-victimization and substance use problems, while PTSD symptoms did not. Finally, the relationship between poly-victimization and substance use problems was found to be best accounted for by anger/irritability symptoms. Results provide support for the hypothesis that poly-victimization predicts substance use problems among justice-involved adolescents, consistent with some of the extant literature among juvenile justice samples (e.g., Davis et al., 2018; Ford, et al., 2018). Novel findings are discussed, including the significance of depression/anxiety and anger/irritability symptoms as mediators of the relationship between poly-victimization and substance use problems. Results support the theory that substances may be used to cope with the specific effects of mental health symptoms, in particular among poly-victimized, justice-involved adolescents. Implications for screening, assessment, and intervention practices within juvenile justice populations are discussed.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Psychology|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Feingold, Zoe R, "Poly-Victimization and Substance Use Problems Among Justice-Involved Adolescents" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI22592383.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI22592383

Share

COinS