Adverse Childhood Experiences, Ethnicity, and Substance Use among College Students: Findings from a Two-State Sample

Myriam Forster, Chris J. Rogers, Stephanie M. Benjamin, Timothy Grigsby, Katherine Lust, Marla E. Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: Despite college students reporting high rates of substance use and adverse childhood experiences (ACE), few studies have examined ACE-related substance use patterns with diverse student samples. We estimated the prevalence of ACE and substance use and investigated ethnic differences in the relationship between ACE and substance use among college students from two states. Design: Data are responses (N = 7,148) on the National College Health Assessment (in California) and the College Student Health Survey (in Minnesota). Multivariable regression models assessed the associations between individual and accumulated ACE and alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and illicit substance use and binge drinking (adjusting for age, gender, depression, and state) among non-Hispanic White, Hispanic, African American/Black, Asian Pacific Islanders, multiracial, and other students. Interaction terms were calculated to test for ethnic differences. Results: In the month preceding the survey, 22% of students used marijuana, 28% used tobacco, 75% drank alcohol; 6% used an illicit drug in the past year and 30% acknowledged past 2-week binge drinking. Although ACE were associated with all substance use behaviors (AORs ranged from 1.19 to 1.54, p <.001), there was significant ethnic variation in ACE exposure (40–52%) and the dose-response relationship between ACE and marijuana and tobacco use and binge drinking. Conclusions: The variability in ACE-related substance use patterns across ethnic groups highlights the need for research that advances our understanding of sociocultural influences in trauma response and the role that campus communities could have in the development of culturally sensitive services that address this issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2368-2379
Number of pages12
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 6 2019

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© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • college students
  • ethnicity
  • substance use


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