Methods: This study used a cross-sectional survey design. The online survey recruited 1,037 college students across the nation. The survey employed a non-probability quota sampling to have a balanced ratio in gender (female and male) and geographic location (Seoul metropolitan area and elsewhere), close to 50:50 respectively. We measured ACEs using 13 binary variables to capture the following adversities in childhood respectively: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, parental separation or divorce, marital violence, household member with substance abuse, household member with mental illness, incarcerated household member, loss of parent or brother/sister, food or housing hardship, and public assistance receipt. Latent Class Analysis (LCA) was employed to identify homogeneous classes with similar patterns of ACEs. Next, we conducted a multinomial logistic regression to examine associated sociodemographic characteristics with ACE classes. Sociodemographic factors included age, gender, college location, college type, father’s education, mother’s education, household monthly income, current working for pay, and health status.
Results: LCA results indicated that four classes fit the data best. The four classes consisted of high-ACEs (6.4%), Exposure-to-family-violence (20.1%), economic-hardship (13.2%), and low-ACEs (60.4%). High-ACEs class has high distributions in most items: physical abuse (92%), emotional neglect (89%), food/housing hardship (86%), marital violence (74%), and household member’s mental illness (60%), and public assistance (60%). Mutinomial logistic regression indicated those who were exposed to ACEs were more likely to have socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. The high-ACEs class was significantly different from the low-ACEs class in gender, father’s education, household income, working for pay, and health status. Compared to the low-ACEs class, the exposure-to-family-violence class were more likely to be females and report worse health. Also, the economic-hardship class were more likely to be female, report less household income, currently work, or bad health status.
Discussion and Implications: This study provides important evidence on discrete classes of young adults and associated socioeconomic characteristics in Korea. It is important to note that the economic hardship class is identified as a heterogeneous group, whereas prior research rarely distinguish exposure to poverty from other ACEs. This study will discuss policy and practice implications that should be addressed to prevent adverse childhood experiences.