Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Multiple Victimization Experiences, Resources, and Co-Occurring Mental Health Problems among Substance-Using Adolescents

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Multiple Victimization Experiences, Resources, and Co-Occurring Mental Health Problems among Substance-Using Adolescents

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationship between multiple types of victimization experiences, psychological and social resources, and co-occurring mental health problems among substance-using adolescents. Data for this cross-sectional study were obtained from a multisite research project in which adolescents ages 11-18 years participated in a comprehensive screening program for substance misuse. Multiple types of victimization, low self-efficacy beliefs, lack of support for victimization issues, and available sources of emotional support were positively related to co-occurring mental health problems. These findings suggest that treatment planning and interventions may focus on helping adolescents cope effectively with their victimization experiences and addressing their mental health needs. Particular emphasis may be placed on enhancing self-efficacy and social skills so that adolescents may benefit from their available sources of social support.

Keywords: co-occurring problems; substance use; internalizing; externalizing; victimization; adolescents

Studies have shown high rates of victimization among adolescents (Fairbank, 2008; Kilpatrick, Saunders, & Smith, 2003; Whitman et al., 2005; Wordes & Nunez, 2002), with victimization having a deleterious effect on mental health (MH; Felix & McMahon, 2006; Menard, 2002; Silver, Arsenault, Langley, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2005). The effects of victimization are noted in terms of general psychological distress as well as specific psychological disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety (Berthold, 2000; Buckner, Beardslee, & Bassuk, 2004; Clear, Vincent, & Harris, 2006; Fitzpatrick, Piko, Wright, & LaGory, 2005; Gatz et al., 2005; Herrero, Estevez, & Musitu, 2006; Kaplan et al., 1998).

Most studies on the outcomes of victimization have focused on single types of violence or abuse; yet, psychological distress could be attributed to experiencing other types of victimization, which were not included as predictor variables in the research. According to Finkelhor, Ormrod, Turner, and Hamby (2005), examining only one type of victimization may ignore or underestimate the effects of other types of victimization, which may have negative effects on adolescent MH. Moreover, different types of victimization may co-occur (Finkelhor et al., 2005). Finkelhor, Ormrod, and Turner (2007) found that victims who experienced more types of victimization reported more trauma symptoms than did victims who experienced the same type of victimization repeatedly.

Adolescents may be further harmed by multiple victimization experiences if their capacity to cope has been eroded because of inadequate resources. Resources refer to assets that can be used to manage stressful events (Taylor & Stanton, 2007) and, in this study, are classified into two categories: psychological and social. Psychological coping resources include positive selfperception, whereas social coping resources include social support (Cohen & Willis, 1985; Macmillan, 2001; Taylor & Stanton, 2007; Zielinski & Bradshaw, 2006). Both categories are important for coping with life stressors and may play an important role in protecting victims from the adverse effects of victimization stress. Resources such as efficacy beliefs (Mosher & Prelow, 2007) and social support (Holt & Espelage, 2005) have been found to reduce negative MH symptoms (such as anxiety and depression) among victimized adolescents (Bal, Crombez, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Oost, 2009; Vranceanu, Hobfoll, & Johnson, 2007).


Psychological resources include self-efficacy, which refers to individuals' perceptions of their competence or ability to perform tasks well (Pajares & Schunk, 2001). According to Bandura, Pastorelli, Bararanelli, and Caprara (1999), "a sense of personal efficacy is the foundation of human agency. Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties" (pp. …

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