Racial/Ethnic Differences in Alcohol Use Trajectories Among Adolescents Involved in Child Welfare

Cindy Y. Huang, Christian M. Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study examined racial/ethnic differences in growth trajectories of alcohol use for a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents in the child welfare system (CWS), and how individual, family, and child welfare (i.e., proximal) factors predicted alcohol use trajectories for these adolescents. The study included 1,080 Hispanic, African American, and White adolescents aged 11 to 14 years old (at baseline) from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being dataset, which is a nationally representative sample of U.S. children in the CWS. Latent growth modeling was used to determine alcohol use growth over 36 months, and multigroup analyses were conducted to examine racial/ethnic differences on alcohol use trajectories and the proximal factors predicting these trajectories. Findings indicated that CWS adolescents demonstrated similar trends in alcohol use growth and initiation compared to adolescents in the general population, especially the Hispanic CWS adolescents. This may reflect an overall shift in nativity status of Hispanic youth in the overall U.S. population. African American adolescents had the fewest significant predictors; this may suggest that factors more relevant for these adolescents and their alcohol use are missing from CWS research. Family-level factors were found to differentially affect use for CWS adolescents compared to adolescents in the general population. Overall, these findings point to a need for improvements in the assessment of CWS adolescents of color in research and practice settings to fully capture the complexity of experiences for these youth and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-533
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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