Background: Childhood maltreatment, particularly physical abuse (PA), increases the risk of alcohol use during young adulthood. Although prior research underscores the importance of examining the roles of PA-event characteristics such as timing of and chronicity of PA in initiating and maintaining alcohol use, few studies have explored the risk of developing alcohol use based on the timing and chronicity of PA.
Methods: Using a community sample of 300 young adults (ages 18 to 25), this study examined how variations in timing and chronicity of PA relate to 4 distinct drinking behaviors including drinking frequency, binge drinking, alcohol-related problems, and alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the past 12 months. We controlled for sociodemographic information, other types of maltreatment, and common risk factors for alcohol use, such as psychological distress, parental alcoholism, and peer alcohol use in all analyses. This study used person-centered and developmental-stage-based characterizations of PA timing and chronicity to explore the relationship between timing and chronicity of PA and later drinking behaviors.
Results: Overall, individuals who were physically abused, particularly during adolescence, and who chronically experienced PA, reported higher levels of monthly drinking frequency and more pathological drinking behaviors such as binge drinking, alcohol-related problems, and AUD.
Conclusions: This study describes the specific roles of timing and chronicity of PA in understanding the increased vulnerability to alcohol use among victims of PA. Our findings suggest that PA during adolescence and chronic PA are related to problematic drinking behaviors in young adulthood.