Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have far-reaching effects on adult mental health yet questions remain how these effects are transmitted psychologically. Because ACEs are rooted in disrupted caregiver-child relationships and are associated with negative self-views and poor social competencies, we hypothesized ACEs disrupt the development of a coherent sense of identity. This impoverished sense of self may then lead to poor adult mental health. The present study hypothesized ACEs effects on adult mental health are mediated by the clarity of one’s identity. We tested a model guided by the Hyman-Tate conceptual timing criterion for mediation on a sample of 305 adults and used self-concept clarity as identity coherence, and suicide behavior, depression, loneliness, perceived stress, and life distress as adult mental health outcomes. Results supported the hypothesized process: self-concept clarity mediated the effects of ACEs on all outcomes with small to medium indirect effect sizes and remained controlling for demographic variables. After including self-esteem as another mediator, all self-concept clarity indirect effects remained significant except for suicide behavior. Discussion centers on how ACEs relates to lower identity coherence and how to improve identity coherence for adult mental health.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||20|
|Journal||Self and Identity|
|State||Published - May 4 2019|
- Self-concept clarity
- child abuse
ASJC Scopus subject areas