Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Barragan, Armando



Child abuse and substance abuse are significant health problems in the United States and they negatively impact the physical, emotional, and biological health of millions of individuals. It is estimated that one in four children experience child abuse, which is a risk factor for the development of substance abuse problems later in life (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], 2018). Rates of substance abuse are increasing nationally, making the relationship between child abuse and the development of substance abuse problems important to study.

This research project analyzes the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and subsequent age of initiation of substance use using convenience sampling and quantitative data analysis. Study findings indicate that there is a dose-related response between ACE scores and earlier ages of initiation of substance use. Notably, there is a high correlation between lower ages of initiation of substance use and substance abusers in the home, parental separation, and emotional neglect. This information can be used to guide clinical assessments and therapeutic interventions. In addition, it can be used advocate for further research and policies that support at-risk and vulnerable adolescents.