Smoking Behaviors Among Adolescents in Foster Care: A Gender-Based Analysis

Svetlana Shpiegel, Steve Sussman, Scott E. Sherman, Omar El Shahawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objectives: Adolescents in foster care are at high risk for cigarette smoking. However, it is not clear how their smoking behaviors vary by gender. The present study examined lifetime and current smoking among males and females, and explored gender-specific risk factors for engagement in smoking behaviors. Method: Data from the Multi Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs was used to evaluate patterns of smoking among adolescents aged 12–18 years (N = 1121; 489 males, 632 females). Results: Males and females did not differ significantly in rates of lifetime and current smoking, or in the age of smoking initiation and number of cigarettes smoked on a typical day. Gender-based analyses revealed that older age and placement in group homes or residential treatment facilities were associated with heightened risk of smoking among males. In contrast, sexual minority status (i.e., nonheterosexual orientation) and increased childhood victimization were associated with heightened risk of smoking among females. A history of running away was linked to smoking in both genders. Conclusion: Gender should be considered when designing intervention programs to address cigarette smoking among foster youth, as the stressors associated with smoking may differ for males and females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1469-1477
Number of pages9
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 19 2017


  • Adolescents
  • child welfare
  • cigarette smoking
  • foster care
  • gender differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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