Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Relationships of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Counter-ACEs with Mental Health of Young Adults (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

468P (see Poster Gallery) Relationships of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Counter-ACEs with Mental Health of Young Adults

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Aely Park, Assistant Professor, Sunchon National University, Suncheon, Korea, Republic of (South)
Youngmi Kim, PhD, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background and Purpose: Previous research indicated that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) lead to the poor mental health of young adults. Emerging research suggests counter-ACEs to examine the roles of resilience and protective factors in early childhood and adolescence. Counter-ACEs focus on positive childhood experiences that may buffer the harmful risks of early adversities. There has been little discussion regarding protective environmental factors, including social supports during childhood and adolescence, relative to ACEs. This research examines the role of ACEs and positive childhood experiences (counter-ACEs) in the mental health of young adults in Korea.

Methods: The online survey recruited a national sample of 1,067 college students in 2021. The study employed non-probability quota sampling to have a balanced ratio in gender (female and male) and geographic locations (Seoul and other cities). The dependent variable was mental health assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4): depressive and anxiety symptoms. The independent variables were ACEs and counter-ACEs. Eleven binary indicators were used to count the total number of ACEs (e.g., emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, parental separation/divorce, intimate partner violence, and substance abuse, mental illness, death, incarceration in family; range 0 to 11). The total number of counter-ACEs was measured with 10 binary items using the Benevolent Childhood Experiences Scale (range 0 to 10). The questions asked about their home, neighborhood, and school environments, such as whether having a safe home environment with a predictable routine or fun activities, having good friends and neighbors, and having teachers who cared or liking the school attended. We conducted an OLS regression analysis to simultaneously test the associations of ACEs and counter-ACEs with mental health, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics (age, gender, college location are, college type, parents’ education, income, work status, and health status).

Results: The participants were 22 years old on average (SD=2.26). One thirds of the participants reported currently work to make money. The average health status was good overall (M=3.4, SD=.88). The mean ACEs score was 2.00 (SD=2.09), and the mean counter-ACEs score was 8.01 (SD=2.29). The average PHQ score for mental health was 7.32 (SD=5.15). The regression analysis presented that there was a positive association between ACEs and mental health (b= .15, p< .05), and counter-ACEs was negatively associated with mental health (b= -.26, p< .05), controlling for other factors. Every adversity experience increased mental health symptoms by .15 point. For every positive experience (counter ACEs), mental health symptoms decreased by .26 point.

Discussion and Implications: It is important to note that counter-ACEs are related to mental health in young adulthood. This study provides important evidence that counter-ACEs can lead to a positive effect on mental health. This study discusses policy and practice implications that promote of positive experiences to offset the deleterious effects of ACEs.