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Adverse Childhood Experiences and Visual-Spatial Deficits: Relationships with Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Adolescent Girls at a Residential Treatment Program
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have many deleterious consequences for children’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral wellbeing (e.g., Hughes et al., 2017). Girls experience more ACEs than boys and have different psychological and behavioral responses (Leban, 2021). However, outcomes following trauma are heterogenous. Some girls are resilient to ACE exposure, but many have serious emotional and behavioral challenges (Chaplin & Aldao, 2013). A minority of these girls may be placed in a residential treatment program (RTP) as a result. Adolescent girls in RTPs are an understudied, highly trauma-exposed population who typically report significant academic struggles, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms, along with behavior problems (Baker et al., 2007). While previous literature has established person- and abuse-specific factors that help explain this variability in outcomes, visual-spatial skills have not been explored as a mediator between ACEs and negative outcomes. Visual-spatial skills are a set of cognitive functions that play a role in social functioning and have been found to be lower in women after experiencing trauma. Visual-spatial skill deficits are clinically meaningful when they are significantly lower than a person’s verbal abilities (Broitman, et al., 2020). This study aimed to (a) establish the prevalence of visual-spatial deficits relative to verbal comprehension (RVSA), (b) identify relationships between ACEs, RVSA, and emotional/behavioral problems, and (c) determine whether RVSA moderates the relationship between ACEs and negative outcomes in adolescent girls living in a RTP. Results revealed fewer RVSA deficits in this population compared to a normed sample. Instead, there was a higher proportion of girls who showed strengths in RVSA. Additionally, findings indicated that ACEs were associated with depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. A threshold effect was found for ACEs on behavioral problems (ACE scores >4 predicted increased negative behaviors). Lastly, RVSA deficits did not interact with the relationship between ACEs and negative emotional and behavioral outcomes. Findings provide valuable information regarding young women’s functioning following ACE exposure, especially for those living in RTPs.
Clinical psychology|Mental health
Sonnen, Emily, "Adverse Childhood Experiences and Visual-Spatial Deficits: Relationships with Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Adolescent Girls at a Residential Treatment Program" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30575628.