Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jenni Teeters, Matthew Woodward, Diane Lickenbrock

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Over 50% of individuals in the United States have had an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE; Alvanzo et al., 2020; Merrick et al., 2018). ACES can result in difficulty with emotion regulation, threatening attachment security. ACES has also been associated with problematic alcohol use during emerging adulthood as a means to cope with childhood and current stressors (Crouch et al., 2019). Prior research has established a connection between ACES, adult attachment styles, and problematic alcohol use but this has not been examined in an emerging adult sample (Murase et al., 2021; Perlman et al., 2016). Moreover, ethnic groups such as Black Americans are more likely to experience ACES due to experiences such as systemic oppression and discrimination, possibly contributing to characteristics related to insecure adult attachment styles. However, no research current to knowledge has examined whether the impact of ACES on adult attachment styles differs as a function of race or whether the connection between ACES, attachment, and problematic alcohol use is differentially impacted by race. The present study aimed to address this by investigating 1) the association between ACES, adult attachment styles, and problematic alcohol use, 2) whether adult attachment subscales (closeness, dependency, anxiety) mediated the relationship between ACES and problematic alcohol use, and 3) if the association between ACES and problematic alcohol use through attachment is stronger for Black Americans compared to White Americans. Results indicated that there was a significant indirect effect of cumulative ACES on problematic alcohol use through adult attachment dependency and anxiety subscales. A moderated mediation analyses revealed that the conditional indirect effect of ACES on alcohol problems through attachment anxiety and dependency was strongest for White individuals. The results from the current study fill a gap in the literature surrounding ACES and adult attachment styles and provide important information on possible differences in these associations by race/ethnicity. Results can be used to inform intervention and prevention methods aimed at reducing problematic alcohol use among emerging adults. Future research should focus on replicating these findings in other diverse emerging adult populations.


African American Studies | Psychology | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology

Available for download on Friday, March 26, 2123