Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Health

Major Professor

Laurie, L. Meschke

Committee Members

Jennifer Jabson Tree, Kathleen Brown, Doug Coatsworth


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been identified as a pressing public health challenge that contributes to many of the top leading causes of death. Despite this, little is known regarding the relation between ACEs and substance use (SU) among emerging adults.

In Chapter II, a systematic review is presented of studies examining the relation between ACEs and SU among university students. This review describes the relation between ACEs exposure (cumulative and individual ACE types) and specific types of substance use. Next, in Chapter III, the association between ACEs and specific illegal drug types (hallucinogens, stimulants, marijuana) among a French sample of college students is evaluated while examining the cumulative exposure of ACEs and the respective contributions of different types of ACEs. Following, Chapter IV elucidates the relation between ACEs exposure and cigarette smoking, marijuana use, and binge drinking. The protective role of physical activity amongst persons with a history of ACEs are also examined in a nationally representative American sample of emerging adults.

This dissertation uses diverse approaches (e.g., systematic review, secondary data analysis, theoretical models) and samples (e.g., French, American, global) to comprehensively assess the relationship between ACEs and SU among emerging adults while demonstrating how protective factors (physical activity) promote resilience. These contributions are significant because they strengthen understanding of specific SU after ACE exposure and highlight the avenues for prevention in primary care and emerging adult settings.

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