Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Approximately two out of three individuals have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) before the age of 18, and one in six have experienced four or more (CDC, 2021). Studies of resilience have examined why some individuals adapt positively in the face of such adversity over others; however, conceptualizations of resilience are often broad or overly reliant on external markers of adaptation. The current study is a secondary analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and utilizes a more focused conceptualization of resilience in adulthood by splitting it into four classifications: internal, external, dual, and no resilience. The sample includes 3,358 participants (ages 24-34, 51.1% female) who endorsed at least one ACE. Of this sample, 8.1% of participants were classified into the no resilience category, 13.8% external resilience, 17.1% internal resilience, and 61% dual resilience. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between resilience classification and total number of ACEs, type of ACEs (abuse, neglect, household dysfunction), and childhood household income.
Findings indicated a positive and significant association between total ACEs and the no resilience and external resilience groups, compared to dual resilience. Analyses specifically comparing external and internal resilience groups found a greater likelihood of external resilience as ACEs increased. Household income showed a small, positive association with external and dual resilience classification compared to no resilience. Looking at ACEs subcategories, abuse was significantly and positively associated with no resilience and external resilience, neglect was positively associated with external resilience, and household dysfunction was positively associated with no resilience and internal resilience (all compared to dual resilience). These findings suggest a process of breakdown of resilience over time as ACEs increase, where dual resilience becomes less frequent, but external resilience, and perhaps internal, remain viable adaptation patterns alongside no resilience. Approaches to intervention aimed at promoting resilience may benefit from considering the cumulative effects of adverse experiences, as well as the unique patterns of internal and external adaptation that could be utilized in strengths-based approaches.
Number of Pages
Leichliter, Sydney Ann, "Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on Internal and External Resilience" (2022). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1583.
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