Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Brian C. Kelly

Committee Member 1

Shawn G. Bauldry

Committee Member 2

Michael T. Light

Committee Member 3

Sharon L. Christ


Child maltreatment is a key risk factor for maladaptive behaviors throughout the life course, including substance use. Although the effects of maltreatment on several domains of functioning have been thoroughly documented in past literature, the social mechanisms through which maltreatment affects individual trajectories have received considerably less attention, especially in relation to the contribution of different maltreatment dimensions (such as subtype, timing, and severity). Examining these dimensions and social mechanisms could hold the key to answering the question of why some maltreated children experience long-spanning negative developmental outcomes, while others maintain resiliency and are seemingly unaffected by these experiences. In turn, moving away from the often-employed “abused”/ “non-abused” dichotomy can help maltreatment scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners gain a renewed perspective on what groups are most at risk and how to best assist their needs. Guided by general strain theory, this dissertation aims to address these knowledge gaps by examining the role family relationships and associations with deviant peers play in shaping substance use outcomes. Combining central tenets of the social bonds and differential association theories, general strain theory posits that child abuse is a type of strain which increases the likelihood of delinquent coping by decreasing family social control and increasing involvement with deviant peers. Further, the three empirical studies in this dissertation investigate how abuse subtype (Chapter 3), timing (Chapter 4), and severity (Chapter 5) affect these two proposed pathways. This research is based on secondary data analysis of the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN), which is a longitudinal panel dataset of 1,354 child participants who were sampled based on their maltreatment or at-risk status. These studies utilize child and adolescent self-reports of maltreatment experiences in predicting self-reported past-year use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs in late adolescence. Findings from this research highlight the differential impact that maltreatment dimensions exert on individual trajectories of substance use. Physical and emotional abuse were subtypes found to have a more salient effect on adolescent drug use, while sexual abuse did not follow the same patterns observed for the other two maltreatment subtypes. Additionally, abuse that began or extended into adolescence, as well as abuse of higher magnitude were linked to a greater likelihood of substance use. Associations with deviant peers emerged as a significant mediating pathway, but family relationships did not receive empirical support. These findings reinforce the importance of examining how the heterogeneity of abuse experiences translates into different developmental outcomes and the role of social relationships in influencing these outcomes.