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Cumulative Violence Exposure and Alcohol Use Among College Students: Adverse Childhood Experiences and Dating Violence

Alcohol use is prevalent among college students, so understanding factors for use is important for creating preventions and interventions. Experiences of childhood adversities may lead to an increase in alcohol use along with dating violence (DV) during college years. The current study attempts to research patterns of childhood adversities and DV along with if cumulative exposure patterns are association with increased risk for alcohol use.

3,710 students with an average age of 20.6 were included in the final sample for the study. Childhood adversity was measured by asking participants about experiences with parents, stepparents, and parental partners. Dating violence was assessed using 12 items surrounding physical violence, sexual violence, and psychological dating violence. Alcohol use was measured by asking participants about number of drinks daily, frequency of drinking, and problematic drinking. Final questions included age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

The researchers developed an 8 class model to fit the data to. The first class was students with no history of childhood or dating victimization which included 18.5% of the participants. The last class included students with childhood violence and multiple types of DV which included 6.6% of the participants. The classes in between included a combination of different histories of childhood and dating violence. Results showed “peer and psychological dating violence,” “peer and dating violence,” and “childhood adversity and psychological dating violence” were all associated with increased number of daily drinks. Overall, all results pointed to childhood adversity and dating violence being associated with problematic drinking among college students. Interventions addressing these two factors may be effective in reducing alcohol misuse.

Take Away: The current study attempts to research patterns of childhood adversities and dating violence along with if cumulative exposure patterns are association with increased risk for alcohol use. 3,710 students were included in the study with measures including childhood adversity, dating violence, and alcohol use. The researchers developed an 8 class model to fit the data to all including a combination of different histories of childhood and dating violence. Overall, all results pointed to childhood adversity and dating violence were associated with problematic drinking among college students. Interventions addressing these two factors may be effective in reducing alcohol misuse.


Grest, C. V., Cederbaum, J. A., Lee, D. S., Choi, Y. J., Cho, H., Hong, S., Lee, J. O. (2020). Cumulative Violence Exposure and Alcohol Use Among College Students: Adverse Childhood Experiences and Dating Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 088626052091321. doi:10.1177/0886260520913212

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