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Background: Childhood maltreatment has been linked to adolescent substance use in cross-sectional studies but the studies were unable to test the associations between childhood maltreatment and changes in substance use patterns during adolescence. The present study investigated the linkages between exposure to childhood maltreatment and developmental trends of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, opioid, and hallucinogen use among high-risk adolescents.

Methods: We used a sample of 937 adolescents (mean age: 15.9 years; range: 13-18), who were selected from five publicly-funded service systems, to examine the extent to which childhood maltreatment may influence changes in patterns of adolescent substance use over time.

Results: The present study identified a 3-class model of adolescent substance use. Mover-stayer latent transition analyses (LTA) indicated that progression toward heavy polysubstance use increased with experience of childhood maltreatment. Findings also suggested that older male adolescents (ages 15-18) who are involved with public service systems are at high risk for developing and maintaining multiple-substance use in adolescence.

Conclusions: Experience of childhood maltreatment is associated with problematic patterns of adolescent substance use and may shape the longitudinal course of substance use during adolescence. (Am J Addict 2012;21:453–461)