Sexual Victimization Histories and Substance Use Trajectories During the Transition out of College


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Abstract

The college years are a period of peak vulnerability for sexual victimization (SV) and substance misuse. During college, students with SV histories report riskier substance use patterns, yet little is known about the influence of SV on substance use behaviors as students begin to transition away from the college environment. This was the purpose of the present study. College seniors (N = 480; 61% female) reported on their alcohol and drug use behaviors across 5 time points spanning 1 calendar year. For many, this year included the transition out of college. Latent growth curve analysis was used to determine whether trajectories for alcohol and drug use as well as alcohol and drug consequences differed based on SV histories (no SV, precollege SV, college SV, precollege + college SV). Results revealed that at the start of senior year, young adults with SV histories reported greater substance use and consequences relative to nonvictimized peers. Over the year, SV histories were associated with steeper declines in substance use and consequences. Despite the declines, those who were revictimized across developmental time periods (precollege + college SV) consistently reported higher alcohol use and consequences across the transitional year, although this did not replicate for other drugs. In sum, although alcohol and other drug involvement among those with SV histories decreased over time, precollege + college SV histories continued to be a persistent risk factor for heavier alcohol use behaviors.

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