Discussion Paper no. 96-2


Using path analytic techniques, this study examines the relationship between childhood sexual victimization and alcohol consumption in adult life, focusing in particular on the role of family functioning and the surrounding social support network of family and friends. Two non-treatment populations are compared, one, an Ontario Native community, and the other, the general Ontario population. The models are estimated separately for males and females. While the results for the two samples differ significantly in certain respects (including by sex), the importance of family functioning as an intervening factor is apparent for both Natives and non-Natives. The results of the path analyses for the two samples suggest that, among the Native group, sexual abuse is significantly and positively related to alcohol consumption through the family dysfunction measure for both males and females and through non-family support for females alone. In the general population sample, conversely, none of the three social support measures tested link sexual abuse to alcohol consumption. Instead, quality of parental relationships appears relatively more important among males in particular in predicting level of family dysfunction and supportive relations with family. These findings provide limited support for the hypothesized mediating influence of the informal support network in the relationship of childhood sexual victimization to substance abuse outcomes; they also point to notable differences for males and females in the dynamics of family life and substance use. The comparability of the Native and non-Native populations with respect to prevalence estimates and implications of the findings for policy are discussed.