Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Patricia A. Petretic

Committee Member

Lindsay S. Ham

Second Committee Member

Denise R. Beike


Psychology, Health and environmental sciences, Adverse childhood experiences, Cognitions, Maladaptive beliefs, Mental health, Trauma, Young adult


Cumulative childhood trauma has been associated with both symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. However, few studies have examined these relations with normative young adult populations nor have they explored the relation between childhood adversities and cognitive distortions as an outcome variable. The current study aimed to: 1) replicate and extend research on the relations between cumulative adversity, using a broad measure of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs; Felitti et al., 1998), which assesses both maltreatment (e.g., physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect) and exposure to elements of household dysfunction (e.g., caregiver substance use, witnessing maternal abuse), and mental health outcomes (i.e., symptoms of PTSD and depression) with a relatively high-functioning young adult sample of female college students, and 2) examine if the dose-response relation frequently found between ACEs and negative distress outcomes also existed with cognitive distortions, a common post-traumatic response and target of trauma-specific treatments that is rarely examined as an outcome variable. Participants (N = 252) were female undergraduate university students who were primarily white and reported a range of traumatic experiences. I hypothesized that increases in number of types of ACEs would be positively related to increases in post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as the three domains of maladaptive cognitions on a measure of global beliefs, the Posttraumatic Maladaptive Beliefs Scale (PMBS; Vogt et al., 2012). Controlling for adverse experiences since age 18, results of hierarchical regression analyses supported the hypotheses and indicated greater endorsement of ACEs was positively related to increases in post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as increases in all three domains of the PMBS: Threat of Harm, Reliability & Trustworthiness of Others, and Self-Worth & Judgment.