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Childhood Trauma and College Freshmen

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  1. Method
  2. Results
  3. Discussion

Arnekrans et al. (2018) state that childhood trauma is also known as developmental trauma and this refers to numerous amounts of stressful experiences in child development. Many of these stressful experiences consist of divorce, family violence, parental substance abuse, and physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. These traumatic experiences lead children to feel neglected from trusted adults, causing them to establish issues that can affect their early on adult life. Consequently, many of these traumas have negative outcomes and result in substance use, and poor academic performance (Arnekrans et al. , 2018). Arnekrans et al. (2018) study was done on college freshman simply because this time in young adult’s life is crucial in shaping who they will become. Having to do everything on their own for the first time is definitely a challenge for first-year college students, especially for those that have a history of developmental traumas. Statistics show that those who earn a bachelor’s degree are expected to have outstanding health compared with those who only acquire a high school diploma.

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These statistics support the conclusion that children who undergo developmental traumas are more likely to turn to substance abuse, and result in poor academic performance. Arnekrans et al. , (2018) found that those students who suffer childhood traumas, are at higher risk of developing substance use disorders. It is common for survivors of neglect to turn to substance use as a coping behavior. Fortunately, some students are able to develop resilience, which simply means they are able to recover from difficulties (Arnekrans et al. , 2018).

Some of these recoveries involve counseling and therapy, which reflect a positive adaptation from a negative experience. Specifically, in this study, the processes and approaches to resilience were considered to better expand and understand the reason why some individuals with developmental traumas are able to endure complications they may face in adulthood. To demonstrate the connection with developmental traumas and its effects on college freshmen, the study examines how common childhood traumatic experiences are in first-year college students. College freshmen were the focus simply because this is a crucial stage in a young adult’s life in determining how childhood experiences can reflect in your adult life. Arnekrans et al. (2018) inferred that there was a distinct difference in grade point average, drug and alcohol dependence, and resilience in college freshman who have experienced childhood traumas then those who have not experienced any in their lifetime.


Arnekrans et al. (2018) participants included 169 students gathered from those enrolled in a first-year orientation course in a populous midwestern university. A majority of the participants were male, the remainder of the participants were female, and one identified as a transgender, whose ages ranged from 18 to 49 years with an average age of 18. 73. A vast majority identified as European American, 55 participants identified as African American, 10 identified as Hispanic, nine identified as mixed/biracial, one identified as Asian American and two identified as other. In order to conduct the actual research they used scales to measure substance use, traumatic experiences and resilience (Arnekrans et al. , 2018)Arnekrans et al. (2018) used an instrument named a Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory-3. This instrument is used to screen for presence of substance abuse or disorders. The SASSI-3 consists of 67 true/false questions that compromise symptoms of obvious and subtle attributes, defensiveness, supplemental addiction, family versus control, correctional and random answering scales.

On the back side of the instrument it has two subscales, the 12-item face valid alcohol and 14-item face valid other drugs. The SASSI-3 is very accurate and sensitive, so false information was not an issue. From this instrument Arnekrans et al. (2018) converted the scores, from the two subscales into T scores in order to better combine male groups and female groups. A demographic questionnaire was used to collect data about each participant’s age, gender and ethnicity (Arnekrans. , 2018).

Participants were also asked to answer questions about potential traumatic experiences in their childhood. The questions were gathered from a review of developmental trauma literature and were created into a trauma-risk correlation list. Some of the common correlations to traumatic experiences were parental divorce, employment problems, legal, medical and mental problems, alcohol or drug addiction and emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Participants were then asked to rate the impact with: no negative impact, moderate negative impact, or significant negative impact (Arnekrans et al. , 2018). A resilience scale measures the construction of resilience and is a 25-item scale rated on a 7-point Likert scale measuring two factors: personal competence and acceptance of self and life (Arnekrans et al. , 2018). On this scale scores can range from 25 to 175, and scores over 145 indicate moderately high to high resilience. Before the actual study was performed, the scale was tested and resulted in an average of. 85 consistency. Ego resilience is an individual’s ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. An ego resilience scale consists of 14 items on a 4-point Likert-type scale, and scores range from 14 to 56.

The higher the score, the greater amount or levels of resilience in the individual. The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale is a brief self-rated assessment used to quantify resilience and to asses treatment response. The CD-RISC contains 25 items that assess how an individual has felt over the past month on a 5-point Likert scale. Scores range from Zero to 100, and higher scores reflect greater resilience (Arnekrans et al. , 2018). Arnekrans et al. (2018) project was approved by the sponsoring university’s institution review board. Permission was asked to 25 instructors of first-year orientation courses to use class time to recruit participants. However only 19 of the 25 granted permission to allow this study, a research packet was provided for each participant and consisted of each scale and questionnaire mentioned above, along with an informed consent form, allowing Arnekrans et al. (2018) to obtain GPA for each participant from the university’s registrar’s office.


The data shows that traumatic experiences in childhood is very common (Arnekrans et al. , 2018). About 73. 4% of this sample experienced at least one traumatic experience, and 48. 6% lived through more than one experience. The data also shows that those who reported a trauma rated the experience moderate to a significant negative impact. Furthermore, the data reflects a small portion of participants personally experienced a trauma or witnessed a parent, guardian or sibling experience a trauma. The mean CD-RISC was 76. 15, for the ER89 the mean was 43. 30, and for the RS the average was 141. 79 (Arnekrans et al. , 2018).

There was a series of trauma-specific multiple analyses of variances conducted to determine if there was any correlation between resilience scales, self-reported alcohol use, self-reported drug use, and first-year GPA (Arnekrans et al. , 2018). The only trauma that significantly impacted these variances was death. Meaning, there is no difference in resilience, self-reported alcohol and drug use, and first-year GPA in those who have experienced one or more developmental traumas. The participants average GPA was 2. 54. The mean for the FVA T scores was 48. 17 and 50. 87 for the FVOD T score (Arnekrans et al. , 2018).

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Arnekrans et al. (2018) conducted this study to find a connection between developmental traumas, academic success, substance use, and resilience. The date shows that developmental trauma was common in first-year college students.

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