School Victimization and Substance Use among Adolescents in California

Tamika D. Gilreath, Ron A. Astor, Joey N. Estrada, Rami Benbenishty, Jennifer B. Unger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Substance use and violence co-occur among adolescents. However, the extant literature focuses on the substance use behaviors of perpetrators of violence and not on victims. This study identifies patterns of school victimization and substance use and how they co-occur. The California Healthy Kids Survey was used to identify latent classes/clusters of school victimization patterns and lifetime and frequency of recent (past month) alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use (N = 419,698). Demographic characteristics (age, gender, and race/ethnicity) were included as predictors of latent class membership. Analyses revealed four latent classes of school victimization: low victimization (44.4 %), moderate victimization (22.3 %), verbal/relational victimization (20.8 %), and high victimization (with physical threats; 12.5 %). There were also four classes of substance use: non-users (58.5 %), alcohol experimenters (some recent alcohol use; 25.8 %), mild poly-substance users (lifetime use of all substances with few days of recent use; 9.1 %), and frequent poly-substance users (used all substances several times in the past month; 6.5 %). Those in the high victimization class were twice as likely to be frequent poly-substance users, and mild poly-substance use was most salient for those in the verbal victimization class. Few studies have explored latent patterns of substance use and violence victimization concurrently. The findings indicate substantial heterogeneity in victimization and substance use among youth in California schools with implications for targeted and tailored interventions. Understanding how certain types of victimization are associated with particular patterns of substance use will provide schools with opportunities to screen for concurrent behavioral health problems among youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-906
Number of pages10
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Society for Prevention Research.


  • Adolescents
  • Substance use
  • Victimization


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