Racial Differences in the Consequences of Childhood Maltreatment for Adolescent and Young Adult Depression, Heavy Drinking, and Violence



      This study examined racial differences in the consequences of childhood maltreatment for depression, heavy drinking, and violence during adolescence and young adulthood among black and white young men.


      Data were obtained from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a prospective longitudinal study of urban males (N = 971, 56% black). Childhood maltreatment was defined as substantiated physical or sexual abuse, physical neglect, emotional maltreatment, or moral/legal/educational maltreatment, with the first referral before 12 years of age. Self-reports of depressive symptoms and heavy drinking (consuming more than six drinks on a single occasion) and official, parent, and self-reports of violent offending were assessed between 12 and 17 years of age (adolescence) and at 24/25 years of age (young adulthood). Regression analyses were conducted to examine childhood maltreatment and race, as well as maltreatment-by-race interactions, as predictors of the three outcomes.


      Prevalence of childhood maltreatment was higher for black than for white boys; however, there were no racial differences in timing, type, severity, and chronicity of maltreatment. When socioeconomic status and cohort were controlled, childhood maltreatment significantly predicted depressive symptoms and violence in adolescence but none of the outcomes in young adulthood. Race was a significant predictor of heavy drinking and violence during adolescence, and of all three outcomes in young adulthood. No significant race-by-maltreatment interaction effects were found.


      Childhood maltreatment has similar negative consequences for black and white male youth during adolescence. Extending intervention efforts through adolescence is important to alleviate these problems among victims.


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