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A large number of American adolescents suffer from depression and the consequences have been shown to be detrimental to their well-being. Adolescent substance use is also an increasing social problem due to the high usage rates and negative lifelong consequences for users. This paper explores the relationships between victimization, substance use, psychological health service utilization, and depressive symptoms in a sample of 4,757 adolescents. Using two waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), the results revealed a positive relationship between victimization and adolescent depressive symptoms, even after controlling for several demographic variables and previous depressive symptoms. However, victimization was only moderately associated with depressive symptoms, indirectly through cigarette or marijuana use. Moreover, psychological health service utilization partially mediated the significant association between adolescent substance use (cigarette or marijuana) and adolescent depressive symptoms. In conclusion, adolescents who experience higher levels of victimization may be more likely to use cigarettes or marijuana, which is positively associated with utilizing psychological health services, thereby elevating the risk of adolescent depressive symptoms. Intervention to reduce adolescent substance use may reduce vulnerability to adolescent depressive symptoms.
Advisor: Kimberly A. Tyler