BACKGROUND: Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are leading causes of death among Native Americans. Little is known about the impact of negative childhood exposures, including parental alcoholism, childhood maltreatment, and out-of-home placement, on risk of lifetime DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) diagnosis of alcohol dependence in this population.
METHODS: Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1660 individuals from seven Native American tribes from 1998 to 2001. Logistic regression was used to estimate the impact of specific types and number of different adverse childhood experiences on alcohol dependence. Relationships between tribe-specific cultural characteristics and alcohol dependence were also examined.
RESULTS: There were significant tribal differences in rates of alcohol dependence and several adverse childhood exposures. Lifetime prevalence of alcohol dependence was high among all tribes (men: 21%-56%, women: 17%-30%), but one (men: 1%, women: 2%). High prevalence rates were documented for one or more types of adverse childhood experiences (men: 74%-100%; women: 83%-93%). For men, combined physical and sexual abuse significantly increased the likelihood of subsequent alcohol dependence (odds ratio [OR]=1.58; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-2.27). For women, sexual abuse (OR=1.79; 95% CI, 1.21-2.66) and boarding school attendance increased the odds of alcohol dependence (OR=1.57; 95% CI, 1.03-2.40). Two separate patterns of dose-response relationships were observed for men and women. Significant inter-tribal differences in rates of alcohol dependence remained after accounting for tribe-specific cultural factors and geographic region.
CONCLUSIONS: Effects of childhood exposures on high-risk behaviors emphasize screening for violence in medical settings and development of social and educational programs for parents and children living on and near tribal reservations.