Childhood Victimization, Internalizing Symptoms, and Substance Use among Women Who Identify as Mostly Heterosexual

Amelia E. Talley, Gabriella Grimaldo, Sharon C. Wilsnack, Tonda L. Hughes, Arlinda F. Kristjanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: The current article examines substance use behavior and associated factors that contribute to risk of substance misuse, such as history of childhood victimization and reports of internalizing symptoms among women from various sexual identity subgroups. Methods: We recruited a convenience sample of 332 community and university student women (M age = 20.88). Approximately 61.1% of the sample (n = 203) identified as exclusively heterosexual (or "straight"; EH) at the time of the survey, whereas 21.4% (n = 71) identified as primarily heterosexual (or "mostly heterosexual"), 6.6% (n = 22) as bisexual (or "equally gay/lesbian and heterosexual"), 3.0% (n = 10) as primarily gay/lesbian (or "mostly gay/lesbian") and 7.8% (n = 26) as exclusively gay/lesbian. Results: Mostly heterosexual women were more likely than EH women to report childhood physical abuse and lifetime tobacco and marijuana use. Mostly heterosexual women also had higher levels of past-year alcohol use disorder symptomology, recent tobacco and marijuana use, and depressive symptoms. Mostly heterosexual women were more likely than bisexual women to have ever tried marijuana, although, among lifetime users, bisexual women reported more frequent recent use. Conclusion: Mostly heterosexual women reported levels of pathological alcohol use, lifetime rates of tobacco and marijuana use, and recent depressive symptoms that were higher than EH women and relatively similar to lesbian and mostly lesbian women. Bisexual women reported heavier current use of marijuana and were more likely than mostly heterosexual women to report childhood sexual abuse. Implications for mental health services for clients who identify as non-EH are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-274
Number of pages9
JournalLGBT Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Sexual minority
  • Sexuality
  • Substance use
  • Women


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