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Childhood Victimization and Alcohol Symptoms in Women: An Examination of Protective Factors

Amie M. Schuck, Cathy Spatz Widom

Objective: This study examined whether academic and intellectual functioning, high self-efficacy and social support protect women who were abused and neglected in childhood from developing alcohol problems in later life. Method: Substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect from 1967 to 1971 were matched on gender, age, race and approximate social class with nonabused/nonneglected children and were followed prospectively into young adulthood. Subjects were administered a 2-hour face-to-face interview, including the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS-III-R), to assess alcohol symptoms. Analyses were restricted to women in the sample (N = 522). Results: For women abused and neglected in childhood and for control women, graduating from high school significantly decreased the number of DSM-III-R alcohol symptoms. For abused and neglected women, high self-efficacy was also associated with significantly lower levels of alcohol symptoms. Interaction coefficients were not significant. Conclusions: Interventions to improve educational achievement and to increase feelings of self-efficacy (possibly through empowerment programs) may be effective in reducing alcohol problems in women abused and neglected as children. (J. Stud. Alcohol 64: 247-256, 2003)