Childhood Adversity, Familial Factors, and Posttraumatic Growth in a Racially/Ethnically Diverse Sample of Emerging Adults

Sarah K Girresch, Tennessee State University


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are common, especially among persons of color. Studies have demonstrated deleterious health outcomes associated with ACEs, but less literature has been dedicated to the study of posttraumatic growth (PTG). Researchers have identified a range of individual factors associated with PTG, but family predictors are vastly understudied and PTG in emerging adults of color exposed to ACEs is unclear. The purpose of this exploratory, correlational study was to understand the relationship between ACEs, familial factors, and PTG in a sample of racially/ethnically diverse emerging adults. Emerging adults between ages 18 and 25 (n = 123; 54.5% non-white, 38.2% African American/Black) completed the ACE Study Questionnaire-Q (ACE-Q), Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), and Primary Attachment Style Questionnaire (PASQ). Participants reported mean ACE-Q and PTGI scores of 2.74 and 57.99, respectively. Results of independent samples t and Mann-Whitney U tests showed significant racial/ethnic differences in PTGI scores. Multiple regression analyses discovered demographic variables accounted for 23.9% of the variance in PTGI scores, F (2, 83) = 13.07, p < .001. Compared to emerging adults of color, white emerging adults had significantly lower PTGI scores (p < .001). An additional model revealed demographic predictors accounted for 28.1% of the variance in PTGI scores reported among emerging adults exposed to at least one ACE, F (3, 82) = 10.68, p < .001. There was no significant relationship between gender and PTGI score ( p = .84). Scores were significantly lower for European American/White emerging adults (p < .001) and other racial/ethnic minority emerging adults (p = .03) compared to African American/Black emerging adults. Familial factors were not significant predictors of PTGI scores, but higher PTGI scores among emerging adults with secure attachment before age 12 were associated with lower PTGI scores for emerging adults with secure-ambivalent (p = .016) and ambivalent (p = .025) attachment. More studies are needed with larger samples comprised of a greater percentage of males, transgender/non-binary individuals, and persons from other racial/ethnic groups (e.g., Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Biracial/Multiracial/Multiethnic, Native American). Information may assist in the development of culturally responsive prevention, assessment, and intervention efforts for children, adolescents, and young adults exposed to ACEs.

Subject Area

Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Sarah K Girresch, "Childhood Adversity, Familial Factors, and Posttraumatic Growth in a Racially/Ethnically Diverse Sample of Emerging Adults" (2018). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI10842540.