Date of Award

Fall 11-2022

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Stephanie Smith

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Sara Jordan

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Bonnie Nicholson

Committee Member 3 School



Exposure to adverse experiences during childhood place adolescents at a disproportionately high risk of developing physical and mental health problems later in life (Anthony et al., 2019; Basto-Pereira et al., 2016; Brown & Shillington, 2016; Felitti et al., 1998). Further, at-risk adolescents, conceptualized as children and adolescents who lack resources for upward mobility, are more likely to be exposed to adverse experiences and thus are at greater risk for these negative outcomes when compared to adolescents who are not considered at-risk (Fernandes-Alcantara, 2018). To obtain better specificity of what outcomes adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) predict in a sample of vulnerable adolescents, this study examined the relationship between ACEs and various domains of psychosocial adjustment as reported by at-risk adolescents and their parents. Additionally, social support was examined as a potential protective factor of the negative outcomes associated with ACEs. Archival data comprising a sample (N=110) of at-risk adolescents (and their parents) who were enrolled in a quasi-military residential program were analyzed for the purposes of this study. Results revealed that adolescent-reported ACEs was significantly predictive of adolescent-reported emotional symptoms whereas adolescent-reported adult social support was significantly predictive of hyperactivity/inattention, prosocial behaviors, and overall psychosocial adjustment. However, adult social support did not moderate the relationship between ACEs and psychosocial adjustment. Clinical implications from this study suggest that the presence of supportive adult relationships for at-risk adolescents may decrease the emergence of negative psychosocial outcomes and screening for ACEs when emotional symptoms are present would be helpful to better inform treatment decisions. Lastly, the continued exploration of protective factors for ACEs is needed as well as understanding the underlying mechanisms of social support that make it beneficial.