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Prevalence and Consequences of Child Victimization: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
113 pages
Publication Series
The goal of the National Survey of Adolescents, funded by the National Institute of Justice, was to test specific hypotheses generated by a theoretically and empirically constructed framework illustrating the relationships between serious victimization experiences, mental health effects of victimization, substance abuse, and delinquent behavior.
In addition to demographic and important background variables, adolescents were assessed for a history of sexual assault, physical assault, harsh physical discipline, witnessing violent events, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, substance abuse and dependence, and commission of index delinquency offenses. The survey included a nationally representative sample of 4,023 young people between 12 and 17 years of age who lived in U.S. households with telephones. Data collection occurred between January and June 1995. The primary hypothesis was that victimization during childhood and/or adolescence would increase the risk of developing significant psychological distress and substance use that, in turn, would increase the risk for substance abuse and dependence, delinquent behavior, and subsequent victimization. As hypothesized, the rate of sexual assault victimization was higher among females than among males. Levels of both sexual assault and physical assault increased substantially with age, although assaultive violence was inversely related to income. For all variables--including PTSD, substance abuse, and delinquency-- having witnessed violence greatly increased the risk for male and female adolescents. Overall rates of substance abuse were lower than those reported in the Monitoring the Future Study and the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse. For a large proportion of children, victimization preceded substance use. Race was strongly related to past-year hard drug use and problem use, with white youth at two to three times the risk. Family drug and alcohol abuse doubled the risk of delinquency, and key variables predicting delinquency status were substance use, victimization history, and family substance use. Overall patterns of association between relevant variables and substance use were remarkably consistent across drug type, racial background, income, and gender. Recommendations for research, policy, and practice are offered. 70 references, 14 tables, and 30 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1997