Victimization and substance use among adolescents in residential child care

Sergio Fernández-Artamendi, Alba Águila-Otero, Jorge F. Del Valle, Amaia Bravo - Child Abuse & Neglect



Adolescents in Residential Child Care (RCC) report high levels of victimization. This has been linked to mental health problems and a higher risk of substance use and substance use problems. The present study aimed to evaluate the specific impact of different forms of victimization on alcohol and cannabis use problems among adolescents in RCC, attending to sex differences.


321 adolescents from 38 residential therapeutic care facilities in Spain participated in the study. Thirty-six different forms of victimization were evaluated, as well as alcohol and cannabis use problems. Impact of polyvictimization and specific forms of victimization on alcohol and cannabis use problems and disorders were calculated using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression models.


Girls in RCC reported significantly more experiences of victimization. Polyvictimization was associated with alcohol use problems but not cannabis use problems. Property, domestic and community victimization showed the highest predictive role regarding alcohol and cannabis use disorders, with significant interactions with sex and migrant family background.


Adolescents in RCC reported considerably high levels of victimization and alcohol and cannabis use problems. In this population, property victimization, as well as indirect domestic and community victimization were predictors of further substance use problems, with girls being particularly sensitive to victimization. Migrant family backgrounds can also have an influence on the impact of some victimization forms on substance use. Victimization associated to high-risk environments and families could contribute to explain the high levels of substance use problems in this population.