Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Erin E. Hardin

Committee Members

Melinda M. Gibbons, Dawn M. Szymanski, Gina P. Owens


Although the effects of adverse childhood experiences have been widely studied in the general population, researchers have just recently begun to examine their effects on college students. Even fewer studies have looked at the impact of adverse childhood experiences on college adjustment. The present study sought to examine mental health concerns as a mediator, first-generation status as a moderator, and the moderated mediation link between adverse childhood experiences and college adjustment. Using this same model, the subconstructs of college adjustment – academic, relational, and psychological functioning – were also investigated. Additionally, we sought to examine differences in the rates of adverse childhood experiences in first-generation versus continuing generation college students. The study was administered to 375 students through online surveys during one semester. Mental health concerns mediated the link between adverse childhood experiences and college adjustment. Generation status was not found to moderate the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and college adjustment or between mental health concerns and college adjustment, and moderated mediation was not supported. These results were the same when analyses were repeated for each of the college adjustment subconstructs. Additionally, we found that first-generation college students reported experiencing significantly higher numbers of adverse childhood experiences and worse college adjustment compared to their continuing generation peers but did not differ on mental health concerns. Of the participants in the study, 67.2% reported experiencing at least one adverse childhood experience, 46.1% reported two or more, and 32% reported three or more.

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