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McNair Scholars Program

Emily Wright


Education: Bachelor of Science in human development and family science (May 2022)

McNair Project: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their Association with Suicidal Ideation and Mental Health (2021)

Mentor: Amber Vennum, Ph.D.

This study examines associations between adverse childhood experiences and mental health outcomes, as well as the connection between minority identity and number of ACEs and mental health outcomes experienced. Specific research questions asked were 1) “Which ACEs are most strongly associated with adolescents’ suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and in-patient services for mental health and substance use issues?” and 2) “How do reports of ACEs and mental health challenges vary by number of adolescents’ minority identities?”. Data used in this project was from a larger study completed on relationship education within a local school district. This project was for 7th-12th graders, and participants were asked a number of survey questions as part of the program. Specific project variables were identified, and data was sorted and coded to reflect the specific interests of this study. Significant results showed that minority identification is connected to experiencing family instability, housing instability, out of home care, and free lunch qualification. Findings also concluded that family instability, housing instability, safety, belonging, and out of home care were all associated with mental health outcomes related to childhood adversity in adolescence. ACEs were shown to be connected to negative mental health and cumulative risk factors in the adolescent period. Future studies should focus on a larger sample size and more diverse identities to further explore the connection between different forms of adversity and mental health outcomes in the adolescent development period.