An Examination of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Aggression among Children with a History of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Academic Article


  • Childhood aggression is associated with many deleterious outcomes and is a common reason for psychiatric referral (Card & Little, 2006; Gurnani et al., 2016). One factor associated with childhood aggression is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs; Felitti et al., 1998). However, existing research remains equivocal on which characteristics of ACEs (e.g., cumulative impact, typology, etc.) are significantly elated to aggression, especially when considering differential effects of ACEs on proactive aggression (PA) and reactive aggression (RA; Dodge & Coie, 1987). Post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are a common negative sequalae of ACEs and are characterized by disruptions in several cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes similar to those associated with both RA and PA (e.g., Marsee, 2008). As such, the examination of PTSS as an underlying mechanism of influence on the relation between ACEs, PA, and RA is warranted. The present study fills several gaps in the literature by examining ACE characteristics that might be related to PTSS, PA, and RA while also examining direct and indirect effects on the relation between ACEs, PTSS and PA and RA. Results indicated the type of ACE, specifically child maltreatment ACEs (CM-ACEs), was most strongly related to all outcome variables. Therefore, CM-ACEs were included in a path analysis with PTSS, PA, and RA. Results indicated a significant indirect effect for PTSS on the relation between CM-ACEs and RA (β =.18, p <.01) but not PA. Findings have several implications for future research and clinical practice, especially for children with an extensive history of CM-ACEs.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 10686262
  • Author List

  • McRae EM; Stoppelbein L; O’Kelley SE; Fite P; Smith SB
  • Start Page

  • 657
  • End Page

  • 670
  • Volume

  • 43
  • Issue

  • 3