Date of Award

Summer 6-14-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Goncy, Elizabeth

Second Advisor

Yaroslavsky, Ilya

Third Advisor

Jackson, Tawana

Subject Headings

Clinical Psychology, Psychology


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are associated with a variety of negative outcomes, including criminal and violent behaviors (Milaniak & Widom, 2015). Prior research indicates that antisocial personality traits such as callousness may play a mediating effect on the relationship between ACEs and criminality (Baglivio et al., 2020). Further, the developmental period in which childhood maltreatment occurs may be related to greater criminality (Thornberry et al., 2010). This research project aims to examine how ACEs relate to criminality in emerging adults, with consideration of antisocial personality traits and the developmental period of experiencing childhood abuse. This study hypothesizes: (A) Both higher reported maltreatment ACEs and household dysfunction ACEs will uniquely relate to criminal activity. (B) A prevalence of antisocial traits (i.e., callousness and cold-heartedness) will mediate the relationship between maltreatment ACEs and criminality, relating to an increased engagement in criminality. (C) Among those who experienced physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, the age of onset of abuse will moderate the relationship between maltreatment and criminality, with adolescent occurring abuse leading to a higher engagement in criminal activity and violence. Through online data collection of emerging adults (N=343), results indicated that maltreatment ACEs associated with higher criminality, however, this study failed to establish a mediation model of antisocial traits between maltreatment ACEs and criminality. Among individuals who experienced emotional abuse, the developmental period of experiencing abuse moderated the relationship between maltreatment and criminality, with those experiencing childhood-limited abuse and low-maltreatment being at the lowest risk for engaging in crime. Researchers should continue to examine how the combination of specific ACEs may contribute to criminal outcomes. Future research should also explore the development and psychometric properties of antisocial trait measures with non-incarcerated samples. Finally, researchers should continue to examine how to classify and code one’s experience of maltreatment to maximize our understanding of ACEs and allocate resources to those at a greater risk.