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Gender Differences in the Effects of Exposure to Violence on Adolescent Substance Use

To date, research exploring gender differences in the relationship between exposure to community violence and substance use has been limited. This study employs longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) to assess the exposure to violence-substance use relationship and explore whether this relationship varies by gender. We find that the two forms of exposure to violence-direct (primary) and indirect (secondary)-independently increase the frequency of subsequent alcohol use, binge drinking, and marijuana use among males and females. One gender difference emerged, as females who had been directly victimized engaged in more frequent binge drinking than males who had been directly victimized. Across both sexes, the effect of each form of violence weakened when other predictors of substance use were included in the models. Future directions for this research are discussed, including policy recommendations to help adolescents cope with victimization experiences.