Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Paul Amrhein

Committee Member

Jeremy Fox

Committee Member

Sarah Lowe

Committee Member

Michael Bixter


Background: Research has revealed an important relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and post-traumatic growth (PTG) through direct and indirect processes, involving three probable mediators, meaning-making, resilience, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. However, little is known about how these processes work together to shape PTG.

Aim: The current study examines the relationship between cumulative ACEs and PTG through meaning-making, resilience, and PTSD symptoms, in a comprehensive dynamic framework model using path modeling.

Method: A sample of 759 undergraduate psychology students (ages 18+) completed self- report measures through a 30-minute online survey that assessed their levels of ACEs, PTG, meaning-making, resilience, and PTSD symptoms. Path modeling inferential analyses were conducted in a cross-sectional study design.

Results: Findings revealed a significant direct pathway between cumulative ACEs and PTG, and two indirect pathways between cumulative ACEs and PTG that were negatively mediated by meaning-making and positively mediated by PTSD symptoms. However, resilience was not a significant mediator between cumulative ACEs and PTG. All pathways had a positive association except the associations between cumulative ACEs with meaning-making and with resilience.

Conclusion: Experiencing ACEs not only increases the likelihood of PTG in adulthood but this relationship is mediated by meaning-making and PTSD symptoms. This study shows that there is hope for growth for those individuals who experience ACEs and PTSD psychopathology post-ACEs by learning how to create meaning from an adverse event.

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