Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr. Alan Leschield


Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a significant predictor of both problematic substance use and emotion regulation difficulties. In individuals who have experienced previous sexual abuse, later substance use has proven to be problematic in regards to having an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder and, additionally, increased the risk of revictimization. The present study examined a clinical sample of adolescents focusing on the associations between childhood abuse, adolescent substance use, and comparing group means on scales of emotion regulation (anxiety, depression, and disruptive behaviours). Abuse type was also examined for relational strength to substance use, specifically sexual abuse which may include other forms of abuse and other types and other types without sexual abuse present again control groups. Participants who had experienced any form of abuse were more likely to engage in substance use as well as score higher in emotion dysregulation. Participants, who experienced at least one form of abuse, excluding sexual abuse, also had elevated scores on emotion regulation difficulties but were less likely to engage in substance use; whereas participants reporting sexual abuse were significantly more likely to engage in substance use but received lower scores of emotion dysregulation. Substance use occurred significantly more in females than males; substance use indicated lower scores of emotion dysregulation except in depression; and more than half of participants reporting substance use also reported experiencing at least one form of abuse. Future research should continue to further explore risk factors and mediators for substance use engagement in order to help minimize risk to youth.

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