Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez


Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez


Tyson S. Barrett


Susan L. Crowley


Hyojun Park


Melissa A. Tehee


Children experience high rates of emotional problems (e.g., anxiety, depression) and behavioral problems (e.g., defiance, aggression) that can have long-lasting detrimental effects. Emotional/behavioral problems have been found to relate to exposure to adversity during childhood (i.e., adverse childhood experiences [ACEs]). Studies have found that rates of exposure to ACEs and emotional/behavioral problems may vary depending on one’s race/ethnicity, sex, and income. Research has not yet looked at how emotional/behavioral problems develop throughout childhood in conjunction to exposure to ACEs. The current two-paper dissertation focused on examining the individual and conjointly developing trajectories of ACEs, and emotional (i.e., internalizing problems) and behavioral problems (i.e., externalizing problems) across the ages of 3, 5, and 9 on 4,655 at-risk diverse youth. ACEs measured included emotional and physical abuse, physical and emotional neglect, parental domestic violence, parental mental health problems, parental substance use, parental incarceration, and parental divorce/separation. We examined if differences existed on the trajectories youth were placed into depending on their race/ethnicity, parent’s income, and sex. The first paper focused on ACEs and emotional problems, and the second on ACEs and behavioral problems. Findings from both studies showed that youth experienced the same number of adversities at each age, with youth experiencing from nine to eighteen ACEs across the three years. Findings show that trajectories of emotional problems were mostly stable or increasing, and of externalizing problem decreasing with one increasing trajectory across childhood. Lower income and Black youth were found to have trajectories with higher ACEs and emotional/behavioral problems. Hispanic youth had trajectories with higher levels of emotional problems and boys with behavioral problems. For most youth, higher exposure to ACEs related to higher emotional/behavioral problems, but some youth with fewer ACEs had the highest levels of emotional/behavioral problems. We did not find that exposure ACEs at a specific age made children more susceptible to experiencing emotional/behavioral problems. We recommend that future research focus on looking at the severity, frequency, and individual impact of ACEs. We suggest that interventions are sensitive to one’s culture and exposure to adversity, as well as the need for social policy changes to target inequities.



Included in

Psychology Commons