Although previous research identified exposure to significant adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as harmful to individuals in several psychological and physiological health domains, research examining the mechanisms of action driving this relationship has been lacking. As a result, the current study examined the role that psychological symptoms serve in the relationship between ACEs and substance misuse behaviors. The current study included a sample of 183 participants (i.e., 82 men and 101 women) who completed five questionnaires assessing exposure to ACEs; psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and substance misuse behaviors. Correlational analyses indicated significant associations among the variables of interest. Exposure to ACEs was a significant predictor of substance misuse behaviors in both men and women. Additionally, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and PTSD symptoms were significant predictors of men's substance misuse behaviors, whereas only PTSD symptoms were a significant predictor of women's substance misuse behaviors. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD each contributed unique and significant variance to the relationship between ACEs and substance misuse behaviors in men, consistent with partial mediations. A different pattern of prediction was evident for women. Such findings suggested that psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD may serve as a risk factor for substance misuse behaviors in men later in life, especially when they have had a history of ACEs. These results demonstrated the importance of promoting trauma-informed mental health care to remediate negative substance outcomes, particularly in those who have had significant ACEs. The importance of studying the relationships among these variables is discussed further.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Renk, Kimberly


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program




Access Status

Campus Access

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Release Date