Pathways among Abuse, Daily Hassles, Depression, and Substance Use in Adolescents

  • S. Jeffrey Bailey University of New Brunswick
  • Katherine Covell Cape Breton University


Currently, high school drug education programs lack information about the relationship between negative life events and substance use. The research described here was designed to explore the relationships between the experience of abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional), daily hassles, depression, and adolescent drug usage. A questionnaire including measures of abuse (Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire), daily hassles (Inventory of High-School Students Recent Life Experiences), depression (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale), and substance use (Nova Scotia Drug Survey) was completed by 112 male and 78 female high school students. The findings supported the self-medication hypothesis and indicated that both abuse and daily hassles were related to the use of substances (e.g., alcohol and non-medical use of prescription drugs) and that the relationship between daily hassles and substance use was mediated by depression. In turn, the use of alcohol and non-medical use of prescription drugs increased the likelihood of illicit drug use. Drug education strategies that emphasize the importance of coping skills and the role of depression as an antecedent to drug use are discussed.


Aebi, M., Metzke, C. W., & Steinhausen, H. (2009). Prediction of major affective disorders in adolescents by self-report measures. Journal of Affective Disorders, 115, 140-149. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2008.09.017

Arbuckle, J. L. & Wothke, W. (1999). AMOS 4.0 Users’ Guide. Chicago: Small Waters.

Arthur, M. W. & Blitz, C. (2000). Bridging the gap between science and practice in substance abuse prevention through needs assessment and strategic community planning, Journal of Community Psychology. 28 (3), 241-155. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6629(200005)28:3<241::AID-JCOP2>3.0.CO;2-X

Baer, P. E., Garmezy, L. B., McLaughlin, R. J., Pokorny, A. D., & Wernick, M. J. (1987). Stress, coping, family conflict, and adolescent alcohol use. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 10, 449-466. doi:10.1007/BF00846144

Bailey, J. A., & McCloskey, L. A. (2005). Pathways to adolescent substance use among sexually abused girls. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33, 39-53. doi:10.1007/s10802-005-0933-0

Becker, B. (1997). Meta-analysis and models of substance abuse prevention. In W.J. Bukoski (Ed.) Meta-Analysis of Drug Abuse Prevention Programs. (pp. 96-119). Rockville, Maryland: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Bergen, H. A., Martin, G., Richardson, A. S., Allison, S., & Roeger, L. (2004). Sexual abuse, antisocial behavior and substance use: gender differences in young community adolescents. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38, 34-41. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1614.2004.01295.x

Bryant, A. L., Schulenberg, J. E., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Johnston, L. D. (2003). How academic achievement, attitude, and behaviors relate to the course of substance use during adolescence: A 6-year multiwave national longitudinal study. Journal of Research on Adolescence. 13, 361-397. doi:10.1111/1532-7795.1303005

Butters, J. E. (2005). Promoting healthy choices: The importance of differentiating between ordinary and high risk cannabis use among high school students. Substance Use and Misuse, 40, 845-855. doi:10.1081/JA-200030803

Carrigan, M. H., & Randall, C. L. (2003). Self-medication in social phobia: a review of the alcohol literature. Addictive Behaviors, 28, 269-284. doi:10.1016/S0306-4603(01)00235-0

Chen, M., Johnston, C., Sheeber, L., & Leve, C. (2009). Parent and adolescent depressive symptoms: the role of parent attributions. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 119-130. doi:10.1007/s10802-008-9264-2

Community Partnership of Drug Abuse. (2006). Annual Report 2004/05. Nova Scotia, CA. Retrieved from

Compas, B. E., Howell, D. C., Phares, V., Williams, R. A., & Giunta, C. T. (1989). Risk factors for emotional/behavioral problems in young adolescents: Prospective analysis of adolescent and parental stress and symptoms. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57 (6), 732-740. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.57.6.732

Covell, K. (2004). Adolescents and drug use in Cape Breton: a focus on risk factors and prevention. Report to Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board.

D’Emidio-Caston, M. & Brown, J. H. (1998). The other side of the story. Student narratives on the California Drug Alcohol and Tobacco Education Programs. Evaluation Review, 22 (1), 95-117. doi:10.1177/0193841X9802200105

Deykin, E. Y., Levy, J. C., & Wells, V. (1987). Adolescent depression, alcohol and drug abuse. American Journal of Public Health, 77, 178-182. doi:10.2105/AJPH.77.2.178

Department of Health. (2002). Nova Scotia Introduces Legislation on Smoke-Free Places. Retrieved from

Elgar, F. J., Arlett, C., & Groves, R. (2003). Stress, coping and behavioral problems among rural and urban adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 26, 574-585. doi:10.1016/S0140-1971(03)00057-5

Ennett, S. T., Tobler, N. S., Ringwalt, C. L., & Flewelling, R. L. (1994). How effective is drug abuse resistance education? A meta-analysis of Project DARE outcome evaluations. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 1394-1401. doi:10.2105/AJPH.84.9.1394

Farrer, S. (2003). School-based program promotes positive behavior, reduces risk factors for drug abuse, other problems. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 18 (6), 1-10. Retrieved from

Finkelhor, D., Hamby, S. L., Ormrod, R., & Turner, H. (2005). The juvenile victimization questionnaire: reliability, validity, and national norms. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29, 383-412. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.11.001

Gilvarry, E. (2000). Substance abuse in young people. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 41, 55-80. doi:10.1017/S0021963099004965

Guthrie, B. J., Young, A. M., Boyd, C. J., & Kintner, E. K. (2001). Dealing with daily hassles: smoking and African-American adolescent girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 29, 109-115. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(01)00219-1

Haans, D. & Hotton, T. (2004). Alcohol and drug use in early adolescence. Health Reports. 15 (3), 9-26. PMid:15208886

Halfors, D. D., Waller, M. W., Bauer, D., Ford, C. A., & Halpern, C. T. (2005). Which comes first in adolescence – sex, drugs or depression? American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 29 (3), 163-170. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.06.002

Harris, M., & Hoover, J. H. (2003). Overcoming adversity through community schools. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 11 (4), 206- 211.

Hawkins, J. D. (1999). Preventing crime and violence through communities that care. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. 7, 443-458. doi:10.1023/A:1008769321118

Kandel, D., & Faust, R. (1975). Sequence and stages in patterns of adolescent drug use. Archive of General Psychiatry, 32, 923-932. PMid:1156108

Kanner, A. D., Coyne, J. C., Schaefer, C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981). Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 4, 1-39. doi:10.1007/BF00844845

Khantzian, E. J., Mack, J. F., & Schatzberg, A. F. (1974). Heroin use as an attempt to cope: clinical observations. American Journal of Psychiatry, 131, 160-164. PMid:4809043

Kohn, P. M., & Milrose, J. A. (1993). The inventory of high-school students’ recent life experiences: a decontaminated measure of adolescents’ hassles. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 22, 43-55. doi:10.1007/BF01537903

Lynskey, M. T., Coffey, C., Degenhardt, L., Carlin, J. B., & Patton, G. (2003). A longitudinal study of the effects of adolescent cannabis use on high school completion. Addiction, 98, 685-692. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2003.00356.x

MacCallum, R. C., Roznowski, M., & Necowitz, L. B. (1992). Model modifications in covariance structure analysis: The problem of capitalization on chance. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 490 – 504. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.111.3.490

McWilliams, L. A., & Bailey, S. J. (2010). Associations between adult attachment ratings and health conditions: evidence from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Health Psychology, 29 (4), 446-453. doi:10.1037/a0020061

Moran, P. B., Vuchinich, S., & Hall, N. K. (2004). Associations between types of maltreatment and substance use during adolescence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 28, 565-574. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2003.12.002

Nova Scotia Department of Health. (1995). The Nova Scotia Health Survey. Halifax: The Department.

O’Leary, J., & Covell, K. (2002). The tar ponds kids: toxic environments and adolescent well-being. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 31 (1), 34-43. doi:10.1037/h0087153

Pacific Community Resources. (2002). Lower Mainland Youth Drug Use Survey. Surrey, B.C.

Pentz, M. A. (2000). Institutionalizing community-based prevention through policy change. Journal of Community Psychology, 28 (3), 257-270. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6629(200005)28:3<257::AID-JCOP3>3.0.CO;2-L

Peters, R., Copeland, J., & Dillon, P. (1999). Anabolic-androgenic steroids: user characteristics, motivations and deterrents. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 12, 232-242. doi:10.1037/0893-164X.13.3.232

Poulin, C. (2002). Nova Scotia Student Drug Use 2002. Province of Nova Scotia, Department of Health, Addiction Services.

Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385-401. doi:10.1177/014662167700100306

Rohan, K. J., Sigmon, S. T., & Dorhofer, D. M. (2003). Cognitive-behavioral factors in seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 22-30. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.71.1.22

Roosa, M. W., Reinholtz, C., & Angelini, P. J. (1999). The relation of child sexual abuse and depression in young women: comparisons across four ethnic groups. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 65-76. PMid:10197407

Sigelman, C. K., Bridges, L. J., Leach, D. B., Mack, K. L., Rinehart, C. S., Sorongon, A. G., & Wirtz, P. W. (2003). The efficacy of an education program to teach children a scientific theory of how drugs affect behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24 (5), 578-593. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2003.08.001

Sim, H. (2000). Relationship of daily hassles and social support to depression and antisocial behavior among early adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29 (6), 647-659. doi:10.1023/A:1026451805604

Simpson, T. L., & Miller, W. R. (2002). Concomitance between childhood sexual and physical abuse and substance use problems: a review. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 27-77. doi:10.1016/S0272-7358(00)00088-X

Sinha, R. (2001). How does stress increase risk of drug abuse and relapse? Psychopharmacology, 158, 343-359. doi:10.1007/s002130100917

Spooner, C. (1999). Causes and correlates of adolescent drug abuse and implications for treatment. Drug and Alcohol Review, 18, 453-475. doi:10.1080/09595239996329

Tomlinson, K. L., Tate, S. R., Anderson, K. G., McCarthy, D. M., & Brown, S. A. (2006). An examination of self-medication and rebound effects: psychiatric symptomatology before and after alcohol or drug relapse. Addictive Behaviors, 31, 461-474. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2005.05.028

Whitbeck, L. B., Hoyt, D. R., & Bao, W. (2000). Depressive symptoms and co-occurring depressive symptoms, substance abuse, and conduct problems among runaway and homeless adolescents. Child Development, 71, 721-732. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00181

Williams, K., & McGillicudy De-Lisi, A. (2000). Coping strategies in adolescents. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20, 537-549. doi:10.1016/S0193-3973(99)00025-8