The Role of Emotional Abuse in Youth Smoking

Most smokers begin smoking in early adolescence with the majority of new cigarette smokers (55.7%) initiating smoking prior to age 18 years. Recent data suggest that roughly 8% of teens aged 12 to 17 years are current smokers. Among adolescents aged 16 to 17 years, the rate is substantially higher (15%), with a continued increase in prevalence among young adults aged 18 to 20 years (31.6%). Adolescents who initiate smoking are likely to continue throughout adulthood.
Scholars have increasingly called for greater consideration and examination of the impact of childhood emotional abuse on child and adolescent outcomes. Some emerging evidence suggests emotional abuse may be more impactful than other forms of maltreatment including outcomes, such as emotional dysregulation, which has been implicated in theoretic models of substance use and substance use disorders that posit smoking is a maladaptive, but potentially effective, way to cope with dysregulated internal states.

This study addresses limitations of prior studies by using prospective data on youth smoking, multisource maltreatment data, and inclusion of emotional maltreatment. Hypotheses are that (1) emotional abuse would be significantly associated with smoking risk, and that (2) emotional abuse combined with physical abuse or sexual abuse would be associated with greater smoking risk than physical or sexual abuse without co-occurring emotional abuse. The authors controlled for other predictors of smoking including peer smoking, household smoking, race/ethnicity, and youth sex.

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