Adult Binge Drinking: Childhood Sexual Abuse, Gender and the Role of Adolescent Alcohol-Related Experiences

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This study examines gender differences in the pathway from childhood sexual abuse (CSA) to adult binge drinking.


Using longitudinal data on 313 males and females (31–41 years old, mean = 36.21) in the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, we test for gender differences in the pathway from CSA to adolescent drinking, norms and pro-alcohol peers, to adult binge drinking.


Controlling for family history of alcohol problems, socioeconomic status (SES) and ethnicity, we found that for females there was a significant direct effect of CSA on adult binge drinking. For males there was no significant direct or indirect effect. Significant effects of family alcohol problems and SES were also moderated by gender.


There are gender differences in the impact of CSA on adult binge drinking. Service providers and program developers should pay special attention to the possibility that their female clients may have a history of sexual abuse which could have implications for the course of prevention and treatment services related to binge drinking. Early intervention could prevent alcohol-related risk in adolescence which in turn could reduce, but not eliminate, the binge drinking consequences of CSA for females.

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