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Romantic attachment, sexual activity, and substance use: findings from substance-using runaway adolescents


  • This research was supported by NIDA grant R01 DA016603.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Amber Letcher, Department of Counseling and Human Development, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA. E-mail:


Research on adolescent attachment is limited, but is growing. Studies to date have focused primarily on high-functioning, college student samples with minimal attention given to at-risk, early adolescents. The current study assessed the relationship between sexual activity, substance use, physical and sexual abuse, and attachment avoidance and anxiety in a sample of substance using, runaway youth. Seventy-three adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years were recruited from a local runaway shelter. The main finding was that attachment avoidance was related to a later age at first use of marijuana. Results provide some support for the utility of the attachment framework in understanding problem behaviors among runaway adolescents. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.