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Relationship Between Physical Abuse and Sexual Victimization and Illicit Drug Use: Findings From Two Studies of Detained Youths

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1988
14 pages
Two studies were conducted in 1984 and 1986-1987 to examine the relationships between physical abuse and sexual victimization experiences and illicit drug use in youth at a juvenile detention facility in the Southeast.
Interviews were conducted with 145 detainees in 1984 and 399 detainees in 1986-1987. The first sample was almost equally divided by gender, while three-fourths of the second sample was male. Both samples were predominantly white and of low to moderate socioeconomic status. In both studies half or more of youth reported having been physically abused by adults in various ways, including being beaten or hit with a strap or other object. A large proportion sustained injuries requiring medical attention. Similarly, rates of sexual victimization were quite high. In 1984, 60 percent of females and 33 percent of males reported sexual abuse; while in 1986-1987, 61 percent of females and 25 percent of males reported such abuse. Compared to the general population, detainees in both samples reported high rates of lifetime illicit drug use for each of nine drug classes (e.g., marijuana/hash hish, heroin, cocaine, analgesics). In addition, many youth reported multiple illicit drug use (20 percent in 1984, almost 50 percent in 1986-1987). Age was positively related to illicit drug use in 1986-1987, and ethnicity (white) was related to illicit drug use in both samples. Further, for both samples, physical abuse and sexual victimization were significantly related to illicit drug use. These relationships held true even with demographic characteristics controlled. 1 figure, 2 notes, and 30 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1988