The study I read about addressed the issues regarding adults that had been abused as children. There was an obvious connection to the subjects' anxiety levels, anger, depression, and dissociation between maltreatment and substance abuse or dating violence. However, they also studied relationships among these adults to find if they were more prone to be part of abusive relationships. Another contributor that was observed was the likelihood of being addicted to alcohol and drugs. All of these conditions were studied when found individually and when they were intermingling. It was hypothesized that the symptoms of trauma these subjects endured would mediate the relationship between them and their significant other or the substances they consumed.
The participants were adolescents and emerging adults randomly selected from child protective services caseloads. Recruitment occurred over a span of 6 years between 2003- 2009. At that point, data was collected at 6-month intervals over 3 years for each participant. The study examined the relationship between childhood maltreatment that was studied initially, trauma symptoms assessed after a year and a half, and alcohol and marijuana use as well as dating violence assessed 6 months later at the 2-year follow-up. The age range of participants ranged from 16-19 and was recorded to be living with foster parents, in group homes, with a single parent, with one biological and one step-parent, on their own or with roommates, with two biological parents, with other relatives, or in some alternative living arrangement. To attain a general basis of symptoms, participants were asked to fill out a checklist of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, dissociation, anger, and sexual concerns. Participants were asked to rate how frequently they felt specific events on a 4-point scale, O being never and 3 being all the time. From there, the study began to follow the participants' experiences as they lived for the next few years.
Substance abuse was an easier variable to observe among what was being tested. A common theme amongst those that experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) was a habit of abusing alcohol at an adolescent age and escalated into early adulthood. The highest rates tend to fall amongst those aged 15-25, according to a 2010 study in Canada. When observing the abuse of alcohol, all trauma symptoms correlated. While all symptoms correlated with problem drinking, anger was the only symptom that correlated with binge drinking. When it came to the total witnessing of IPV, the only problem with drinking was a correlation, not binge drinking. Similar results were found in the abuse of marijuana.
The abuse of marijuana is just as common among adolescents and young adults as alcohol. While marijuana is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. and Canada, very little research has been done to study the relationship between the drug and dating violence among adolescents. When the participants were asked, only one-third had partaken in the consumption of alcohol over a span of 30 days, but almost half had smoked marijuana. However, this study showed that there was no specific correlation between trauma symptoms and marijuana abuse. While the abuse of marijuana was not linked with any trauma symptoms, the combination of marijuana and dating violence significantly correlated with IPV.
Dating violence was most commonly linked with the abuse of at least one type of substance. Several studies have been conducted to prove the correlation between substance use and dating violence. Most of these studies have shown that the higher the level of intoxication, the higher the level of aggression. However, while dating violence and marijuana were most commonly linked with the witnessing of IPV, dating violence and alcohol abuse had no real significant correlation to any childhood maltreatment variable.
I think reading this study has been very eye-opening. In no way am I saying I was abused in my childhood; however, I do think more times than my parents realized, the things they said towards me took a toll on my mental state. While it is a stretch, I can identify with some of the comments regarding binge drinking and dating violence. I think this study helped me realize that while I was not being physically harmed in any of my dating relationships, there was mental abuse that I just accepted to be normal. I took away more of a personal realization of this study than anything. I had been striving to overcome some of these experiences in my own life, and I think reading this study finally gave me the kick I needed. I would like to eventually read a study that followed people in these experiences and what was done to help them. While we need to focus on the negative effects of abuse on children and early adults, I think we also need to take time to reflect on the positivity that can come out of it.
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