Abstract: The Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Resilience Among Active Duty Service Members (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

The Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Resilience Among Active Duty Service Members

Friday, January 18, 2019: 6:15 PM
Union Square 25 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Matthew Garrido, MSW, PhD Student, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Jing Guo, PhD, Associate Professor, PhD Program Chair, University of Hawaii at Manoa, HI

The U.S. military is increasing its numbers in the next several years with an estimated recruitment goal of 80,000 new recruits in 2018.  At-risk individuals often join the military to escape their adverse environment. Studies show that military personnel have higher prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) compared to the general population.  Literature shows ACEs have negative impact on physical and emotional well-being of adults. The development of resilience is critical for the service members, as they are often required to work with teams in the toughest environments. Therefore, it is important to examine how the ACEs are associated with the resilience among active duty service members.  This study uses secondary survey data from the Warrior Resilience Study (WRS) from a military base in Hawaii to examine the relationship between ACEs and resilience among active duty service members.


This study draws data from the WRS. A convenience sample of 250 active duty service members was surveyed from March 2016 to March 2017 at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Participants completed a 3-part survey that included basic demographic information, the ACE questionnaire, and the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale 25 (CD-RISC).

Resilience is measured by the total score of resilience in CD-RISC, which is self-reported measure consisting of 25 items rated on a 5-point scale (0-4) with higher scores indicative of greater resilience. ACEs is measured by the total score of ACE questionnaire, which is an adaptation of the survey used in the seminal Kaiser Permanente ACE study. It contains 10 questions written to elicit dichotomous yes/no responses to capture the respondent’s exposure to one of ten adverse experiences prior to age 18. A set of demographic variables include gender, age, race, education, marital status, ranks, and deployment experience. This study utilizes Descriptive, Bi-variate, and Regression analysis to examine the relationships between ACEs and resilience among service members, controlling demographic factors. 


Among 250 participants, there are 84% male, with the mean age 27.16 years old, 60% married, 45% Caucasian, 69% with above high school education. Among these service members, 50% are junior ranks, 42% having combat deployment. Resilience scores on the CD-RISC ranged from 34 to 100 with a mean of 78.28 (SD=13.74).  ACE scores ranged from 0 to 10 with a mean of 2.94 (SD=2.56). Bivariate analysis shows that a statistically significant, modest correlation between ACE total score and Resilience total score (r=-.138, p<.05). Two multiple regression models were conducted. Regression model one shows Resilience is statistically associated with ACEs (co-eff.=-.720, p< .05), and education (co-eff.= .04, p <.05). And model 2 shows that resilience’s association with ACEs is insignificant anymore, after controlling for Ranks (co-eff.= 3.72, p<.01), and Deployment (co-eff.=-8.21, p< .01) .

Conclusions and Implications:

The results indicate that ACEs are negatively associated with resilience among active duty service members. Resilience is also associated with educational level, military ranks, and deployment experience. Findings can be used to improve understanding of characteristics of service members with ACES, and help leaders develop programs to strengthen resilience of these individuals.