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Childhood Trauma and Psychiatric Disorders as Correlates of School Dropout in a National Sample of Young Adults


  • The NLAAS data used in this analysis were provided by the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at the Cambridge Health Alliance and supported by National Institutes of Health Research Grant U01 MH 06220-06A2 funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Support for the second author was provided by a Mentored Career Development Award K23 DA018715 funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Support for the first author was provided by the Nan May Holstein New Directions Fund through the Wellesley Centers for Women.

concerning this article should be addressed to Michelle V. Porche, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Cheever House, Wellesley, MA 02481. Electronic mail may be sent to


The effect of childhood trauma, psychiatric diagnoses, and mental health services on school dropout among U.S.-born and immigrant youth is examined using data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys, a nationally representative probability sample of African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Asians, Latinos, and non-Latino Whites, including 2,532 young adults, aged 21–29. The dropout prevalence rate was 16% overall, with variation by childhood trauma, childhood psychiatric diagnosis, race/ethnicity, and nativity. Childhood substance and conduct disorders mediated the relation between trauma and school dropout. Likelihood of dropout was decreased for Asians, and increased for African Americans and Latinos, compared to non-Latino Whites as a function of psychiatric disorders and trauma. Timing of U.S. immigration during adolescence increased risk of dropout.

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