Adverse Childhood Experiences and Health Indicators in a Young Adult, College Student Sample: Differences by Gender

Timothy J. Grigsby, Christopher J. Rogers, Larisa D. Albers, Stephanie M. Benjamin, Katherine Lust, Marla E. Eisenberg, Myriam Forster

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Scopus citations


    BACKGROUND: The original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study demonstrated strong, graded relationships between child maltreatment and household dysfunction and adult health status. The present study re-examined these relationships in a sample of young adult, college students to better characterize the developmental timing of health problems related to ACE exposure and differences by biological sex.

    METHOD: A cross-sectional general health questionnaire that included items on ACE was administered to young adults (ages 18-29) at universities in California (n = 3880), Minnesota (n = 7708), and Texas (n = 451) between 2017 and 2018. Seven ACE were assessed: psychological, physical, or sexual abuse; violence between parents; or living with household members who were substance misusers, mentally ill, or ever imprisoned. Binary health indicators were regressed on number of ACE as 0 (referent), 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more using logistic regression controlling for age, biological sex, race/ethnicity, and site.

    RESULTS: Approximately 51.7% of the sample reported at least one ACE with a significantly higher rate among Texas participants (p < 0.001). We observed graded relationships between levels of ACE exposure and physical, mental, and behavioral health indicators including cigarette use, e-cigarette use, drinking and driving, obesity, lifetime depression, suicide ideation and attempt, non-suicidal self-injury, and lack of restful sleep. ACE-exposed females reported worse mental health status than ACE-exposed males while males reported more substance use than females. Most outcomes did not vary significantly by sex.

    CONCLUSION: The strong, graded relationships observed between ACE exposure and health status among young adults reinforce the need for trauma-informed intervention programs on college campuses.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)660-667
    Number of pages8
    JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2020, International Society of Behavioral Medicine.


    • ACE
    • College
    • Depression
    • Obesity
    • Smoking
    • Suicide
    • Young adult
    • e-cig
    • Cross-Sectional Studies
    • Humans
    • Risk Factors
    • Male
    • Child Abuse
    • Young Adult
    • Students
    • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems
    • Adolescent
    • Adult
    • Female
    • Substance-Related Disorders
    • Child

    PubMed: MeSH publication types

    • Journal Article


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