Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Shawn C.T. Jones, PhD


For African Americans, the dynamics of relationships are rooted in childhood experiences of unconditional love, restraint, and respect. These experiences help individuals form their understanding of how relationships function. Experiencing healthy relationships has an enduring impact on social development and interpersonal relationships. However, regarding studies on childhood trauma and intimate relationships, there is insufficient literature that includes African American samples as the primary foci of the research. Due to gaps in extant literature, the present study aims to explore whether experiences of healthy intimate relationship in African Americans are associated with childhood trauma (neglect, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse). Using the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs; Felitti & Anda, 1998), the present study examined the extent to which trauma experienced in childhood serves as a predictor of healthy intimate relationship experiences, using a novel measure, the Healthy Intimate Relationship Assessment (HIRA; Shepard, 2019). Psychometric properties regarding the HIRA were explored to determine factor loadings and reliability. The study measured whether gender or counseling moderated the relationship between ACEs and healthy relationship factors as well. Findings suggest that 1) higher reported ACEs scores were associated with lower HIRA scores on the trust, honesty, and communication subscales, 2) participants that endorsed higher ACEs abuse and neglect clusters scores reported experiencing less trusting, honest, and communicative intimate relationships as outlined in the HIRA measure, and 3) gender and counseling experience did not attenuate the association between ACEs and HIRA scores. Implications of adverse childhood experiences on experiences in adult intimate relationships are discussed as well as future directions to consider when exploring similar research.


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