An Investigation of the Associations Among Adverse Childhood Experiences, Coping, Psychopathology, and Parental Communication in Adolescents
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) predispose adolescents to a variety of physical and mental health problems and place them at an increased risk of experiencing additional major stressors later in life (Anda et al., 2006; Felitti et al., 1998). Coping strategies have been shown to help reduce the negative effects of stress on adolescents’ physical and mental health (Compas et al., 2017). Further, affectively positive parental communication with adolescents has been shown to support and improve adolescents’ coping skills as well as reduce internalizing and externalizing problems (Anderson et al., 2020; Eisenberg, Fabes, & Murphy, 1996; Thompson & Meyer, 2007; Watson et al., 2014, 2020). Using data from parent and child reports and video recorded adolescent-caregiver interactions, the present study explored the relationships between adolescent ACE exposure, primary and secondary control coping, anxious/depressed symptoms, aggressive behaviors, affectively positive, and hostile/intrusive parental communication. ACE exposure predicted higher levels of psychological symptoms and lower levels of coping. Higher levels of coping were associated with lower levels of psychological symptoms, and both types of coping accounted for significant variance in the development of psychological symptoms. The indirect pathway between ACE exposure and psychological symptoms through both types of coping also proved significant. Affectively positive parenting accounted for significant variance in the development of anxious/depressed symptoms and approached significance in the development of aggressive behaviors but was not found to moderate the indirect effect of coping on the relationship between ACE exposure and psychological symptoms. The findings of this study underscore the importance of coping in the prevention of psychopathology and highlight parental communication as a variable for further exploration in the development and prevention of psychopathology in adolescents with a history of ACE exposure.