The present study utilized longitudinal data from a high-risk community sample (n= 377; 166 trauma-exposed; 54% males; 52% children of alcoholics; 73% non-Hispanic/Latino Caucasian; 22% Hispanic/Latino; 5% other ethnicity) to test a series of hypotheses that may help explain the risk pathways that link traumatic stress, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology, and problematic alcohol and drug use. Specifically, this study examined whether pre-trauma substance use problems increase risk for trauma exposure (the high-risk hypothesis) or PTSD symptoms (the susceptibility hypothesis), whether PTSD symptoms increase risk for later alcohol/drug problems (the self-medication hypothesis), and whether the association between PTSD symptoms and alcohol/drug problems is due to shared risk factors (the shared vulnerability hypothesis). This study also examined the roles of gender and ethnicity in these pathways. A series of logistic and negative binomial regressions were performed in a path analysis framework. A composite pre-trauma family adversity variable was formed from measures of family conflict, family life stress, parental alcoholism, and other parent psychopathology. Results provided the strongest support for the self-medication hypothesis, such that PTSD symptoms predicted higher levels of later alcohol and drug problems among non-Hispanic/Latino Caucasian participants, over and above the influences of pre-trauma family adversity, pre-trauma substance use problems, trauma exposure, and demographic variables. Results partially supported the high-risk hypothesis, such that adolescent substance use problems had a marginally significant unique effect on risk for assaultive violence exposure but not on overall risk for trauma exposure. There was no support for the susceptibility hypothesis, as pre-trauma adolescent substance use problems did not significantly influence risk for PTSD diagnosis/symptoms over and above the influence of pre-trauma family adversity. Finally, there was little support for the shared vulnerability hypothesis. Neither trauma exposure nor preexisting family adversity accounted for the link between PTSD symptoms and later substance use problems. These results add to a growing body of literature in support of the self-medication hypothesis. Findings extend previous research by showing that PTSD symptoms may influence the development of alcohol and drug problems over and above the influence of trauma exposure itself, preexisting family risk factors, and baseline levels of substance use.