First Advisor

Hess, Robyn S

Document Type


Date Created



This mixed methods study evaluated lifetime trauma exposure, protective factors, and current psychological functioning among 78 adolescents from two public middle schools in rural and suburban communities. One hundred percent of adolescents reported experiencing at least one traumatic event at some point during their lives. After controlling for gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and special education/general education placement, more trauma exposure was associated with more post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, more teacher-rated externalizing behaviors, and lower teacher-rated adaptive functioning. Perceived access to support and factors of school safety demonstrated protective effects in the relationship between trauma exposure and domains of psychological functioning. Such moderators were observed to provide a greater impact among adolescents from families of low socioeconomic status. The inclusion of qualitative interviews helped to illustrate the process by which these protective factors influence trauma-related symptoms. Implications of the results focus on the implementation of school-wide safety promotion programs in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Such programs should place emphasis on the sense of school connection and positive interpersonal relationships among students rather than violence associated with the presence of weapons or drugs.

Abstract Format



Mixed-Method Studies; Applied Psychology; Adolescent Trauma; School Safety


190 pages

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