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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2010 May;71(3):326-34.

Trauma, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and alcohol-use initiation in children.

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Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, Unit 43, New York, New York 10032, USA.



This study examined initiation of alcohol use among adolescents, in relation to their earlier traumatic experiences and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Data were from a longitudinal study of children of Puerto Rican background living in New York City's South Bronx and in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The subsample (n = 1,119; 51.7% male) of those who were 10-13 years old and alcohol naive at baseline was used in the analyses.


Alcohol-use initiation within 2 years after baseline was significantly more common among children reporting both trauma exposure and 5 or more of a maximum of 17 PTSD symptoms at baseline (adjusted odds ratio = 1.84, p < .05) than among those without trauma exposure, even when potentially shared correlates were controlled for. Children with trauma exposure but with fewer than five PTSD symptoms, however, did not differ significantly from those without trauma exposure, with regard to later alcohol use.


PTSD symptoms in children 10-13 years old may be associated with early onset of alcohol use. It is important to identify and treat PTSD-related symptoms in pre-adolescent children.

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