Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Terri Erbacher, PhD

Second Advisor

Virginia Salzer, PhD

Third Advisor

Leslie Brower, PhD


Childhood adversity and executive function deficits pose significant concerns for those who experience these issues directly, as well as the educators, parents, medical providers, and communities in which they live. Much research has outlined negative physiological effects on typical brain development and health, as well as negative behavioral, social, and emotional outcomes stemming from early life trauma. Similarly, individuals with executive function deficits are more likely to struggle with behavior, emotions, and cognition. Little is known about the self-reported relationship between early life trauma and executive function. This study was designed to learn more about the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), using the Philadelphia ACE Survey, and executive functions, as measured by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-2 (BRIEF-2), in adolescents ages 14 through 18. This study showed that adolescents who experienced more adversity during childhood also demonstrated poorer global executive functioning. Adolescents with four or more ACEs struggled with inhibition, self-monitoring, shifting, emotional control, task completion, working memory, and planning/organizing more than those with three or fewer ACEs. Adolescents who did not feel safe in their neighborhood or did not believe neighbors could be trusted (adverse neighborhood experience) demonstrated executive function deficits in the areas of shifting, task completion, working memory, and overall emotional regulation. Adolescents who indicated an ACE for bullying were more likely to struggle with task completion. In sum, this study demonstrated several significant correlations between early life adversity and global cognitive, behavioral, and emotional executive dysfunction on self-reports.

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Psychology Commons