Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Drug Issues 34:1 (Winter 2004), pp. 1-21. Copyright © 2004 Florida State University, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.


Research on homeless and runaway adolescents has shown that this population is at high risk for illicit drug use. Though sexual abuse has been widely considered in the etiology of illicit drug use, we know less about how early sexual abuse affects young people’s decisions to run away, to use drugs, and to engage in other deviant behavior on the streets. Based on interviews with 361 female homeless and runaway adolescents in four midwestern states, the current study revealed a high prevalence of drug use, especially use of cocaine among youths with sexual abuse histories. Path analyses showed that early sexual abuse indirectly affected drug use on the streets via running away at an earlier age, spending more time on the street, and use of deviant strategies to survive (e.g., affiliation with deviant peers, trading sex, and use of nonsexual deviant subsistence strategies).

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