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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Apr 1;122(1-2):77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.09.013. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Child maltreatment increases sensitivity to adverse social contexts: neighborhood physical disorder and incident binge drinking in Detroit.

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Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032-3725, USA.



Exposure to child maltreatment is associated with elevated risk for behavioral disorders in adulthood. One explanation for this life-course association is that child maltreatment increases vulnerability to the effects of subsequent stressors; however, the extent to which maltreatment increases sensitivity to social context has never been examined. We evaluated whether the association between neighborhood physical disorder and binge drinking was modified by child maltreatment exposure.


Data were drawn from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study, a prospective representative sample of predominately African Americans in the Detroit population. Neighborhood physical disorder was measured via systematic neighborhood assessment. Child maltreatment indicators included self-reported physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Incident binge drinking was defined as at least one episode of ≥5 drinks (men) or ≥4 drinks (women) in the past 30-day period among those with no binge drinking at baseline (N=1013).


Child maltreatment and neighborhood physical disorder interacted to predict incident binge drinking (B=0.16, p=0.02) and maximum number of past 30-day drinks (B=0.15, p=0.04), such that neighborhood physical disorder predicted problematic alcohol use only among individuals with high exposure to child maltreatment.


The results add to the growing literature that African Americans in the US are exposed to an array of stressors that have pernicious consequences for problematic alcohol use. Our results document the need for increased attention to the potential for at-risk alcohol use among populations with a high degree of stress exposure.

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