Childhood maltreatment and alcohol and tobacco use trajectories in rural Chinese adolescents

Li Niu, Doran C. French, Yuyan Wang, Jianing Sun, Danhua Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is a high prevalence of childhood maltreatment among Chinese children and adolescents, but little is known about its impact on alcohol and tobacco use trajectories and how positive school and neighborhood environments moderate the associations. The objective of this study was to assess the association between multiple forms of childhood maltreatment and longitudinal alcohol and tobacco use trajectories, and to assess the possibility that perceived connections to school and neighborhood moderate these associations. Methods: This longitudinal cohort study included 2594 adolescents (9 to 13 years) from a low-income rural area in China. Childhood exposure to abuse and neglect was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Participants reported past-month alcohol and tobacco use at three time points over 1 year. Results: Growth curve models revealed that childhood sexual abuse was associated with a higher risk of past-month drinking (OR = 1.53, 95% CI 1.19–2.03, p < 0.001) and smoking (OR = 1.82, 95% CI 1.30–2.55, p < 0.001). Neglect was associated with a higher risk of past-month drinking (OR = 1.52, 95% CI 1.06–1.90, p < 0.05) and smoking (OR = 2.02, 95% CI 1.34–3.02, p < 0.001). None of the maltreatment forms predicted a faster increase in either drinking or smoking. These associations were found independent of personal, family, and contextual characteristics. School and neighborhood connection moderated the association between physical abuse and past-month drinking, such that physical abuse was associated with a greater risk of drinking only for youth who perceived low school or neighborhood connections. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate the importance of early experiences of childhood maltreatment for adolescent alcohol and tobacco use. Enhancing school and neighborhood connectedness for physically abused youth may help protect them from alcohol use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number51
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • School and neighborhood environment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Substance use


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