Publication Date

Summer 2021

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jenni B. Teeters (Director), Elizabeth Lemerise, Matthew Woodward

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Unresolved childhood trauma, known as adverse childhood experiences (ACES), have been found previously to lead to a plethora of health disparities and increase the risk for problematic substance use, particularly alcohol use. However, protective factors, such as social support have been found to buffer against these consequences. The goal of this study was to highlight the connection between ACES and problematic alcohol use. Additionally, the aim was to investigate perceived social support as a moderator between ACES and problematic alcohol use and to examine the domains of social support and how they individually moderate the association between ACES and social support. Data were collected using an international online subject pool (n =350; 88.3% Caucasian, 66.9% female), with participants completing a battery of assessments to assess the topics of childhood trauma, perceived social support, and problematic alcohol use. Pearson’s correlations were conducted to examine the associations among ACES, social support, and problematic alcohol use. The findings showed that ACES were related positively to problematic alcohol use, ACES were related negatively to overall social support and the friend, family, and significant other domains of social support. Additionally, problematic alcohol use was correlated negatively with overall perceived social support, friend, and significant other support. Moderation analyses were used to investigate whether overall social support and the various domains of social support moderated the association between ACES and problematic alcohol use. Findings revealed that perceived family support significantly moderated ACES and alcohol use such that the relation between ACES and alcohol use was strongest at higher levels of support from family. There were no moderating effects found for overall social support and support from friends and significant other. In general, these findings contradict previous literature in that higher levels of family support were not associated with lower levels of problematic alcohol use. Future work is needed to explore additional factors that could impact the relations between social support, ACES, and problematic drinking.


Clinical Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction