Shame, self-esteem, and identity in the aftermath of adverse childhood experiences: implications for depression and posttraumatic growth in emerging adults

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ashley Marie Hosey (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Kia Asberg

Abstract: Emerging adulthood (i.e., age 18 to 25-years; Arnett, 2000) is an important developmental period with unique demands (i.e., gaining independence from parents, finding one’s true identity, navigating new and increasing responsibilities). Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs; including child maltreatment) may impede the process by which youth transition into adulthood (Davis, Dumas, & Roberts, 2018), and increase the risk of negative outcomes. In contrast, the Resilience Portfolio Model (RPM; Grych, Hamby, & Banyard, 2015) proposes that healthy adaptation and post-traumatic growth is possible, in part by relying on one’s internal strengths (e.g., self-esteem and a strong sense of self). Similarly, the Self-Regulation Shift Theory (SRST; Benight, Shoji, & Delahanty, 2017) suggests that a stressor may push an individual over a threshold, and this, in turn, produce distortions in their self-perception. If the threshold is not reached, the person will not experience the aforementioned changes in self-perception, and therefore is likely to experience more typical adjustment. The role of self-perceptions, such as having a stable sense of self, have not been examined in the context of interpersonal trauma or with other variables that may influence outcomes in relation to ACEs. Thus, the present study examined previous assumptions about ACEs in relation to intrapersonal constructs (self-esteem, identity, and shame), and explored also the relative contribution of ACEs, self-esteem, identity and two types of shame in the prediction of depression and post-traumatic growth in a sample of emerging adult college students (N = 220). Although shame failed to explain the association between ACEs and identity instability, results of two hierarchical regressions provide partial support that predictors (e.g., ACEs, self-esteem, and shame pertaining to negative self-evaluation) contribute uniquely to outcomes. Specifically, both ACEs and self-esteem were associated uniquely with emerging adults’ depressive symptomatology. In contrast, self-esteem and Shame-negative self-evaluation were associated with post-traumatic growth. Overall, findings provide additional support for treatment modalities that emphasize a more accurate estimation of one’s global sense of worth (i.e., self-esteem), especially in the context of ACEs. Additional implications, suggestions for future research, and limitations will be discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Adverse Childhood Experiences, Depression, Emerging Adulthood, Identity Instability, Posttraumatic Growth, Trauma

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