The Relationship Between ACEs, Trauma-Related Psychopathology and Resilience in Vulnerable Youth: Implications for Screening and Treatment

Abstract

This study examined the impact of ACEs in vulnerable adolescents and assessed whether resilience would have a moderating impact on psychological functioning. Participants included 40 youth, aged 12–17 identified as having experienced family violence and who were referred for treatment at the San Diego Center for Counseling (SD-CC). The relationship between ACEs, trauma-related symptomology, and psychological functioning was examined using results from the Child Posttraumatic Stress Scale (CPSS) and the Personality Assessment Inventory for Adolescents (PAI-A). The Child Youth Resiliency Measure was utilized to assess whether resilience buffered against the impact of ACEs. A positive relationship between the number of reported ACEs and trauma-related symptomology was found. There was a dose dependent response: youth endorsing 4 or more ACEs had significantly more psychopathology and showed less resilience as compared to those scoring below 4. The more resilient the sample, the less symptomatology was found. Regression analysis showed that resilience had a protective influence: as ACE distress increased, those high in resilience reported less somatization or depression. These findings support the use of the ACE measure as a screening tool and underscore the importance of assessing resilience in conjunction.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to acknowledge the University of Guelph-Humber for awarding us with a two year Research Grant. This funding was instrumental in allowing us to complete this project. We would also like to thank the staff and clients at the San Diego Center for Counseling and the San Diego Family Justice Center.

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Correspondence to Julie Goldenson.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation at Humber College and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Goldenson, J., Kitollari, I. & Lehman, F. The Relationship Between ACEs, Trauma-Related Psychopathology and Resilience in Vulnerable Youth: Implications for Screening and Treatment. Journ Child Adol Trauma 14, 151–160 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-020-00308-y

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Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Psychopathology
  • PTSD
  • Complex trauma
  • Resilience
  • Screening