Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Teresa C. Kulig


As research on victimization continues to adapt, scholars have begun to examine how certain variables in childhood affect the likelihood of being victimized in adulthood—much of which is focused on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Studying the impact of early experiences on later victimization outcomes is important for the field so practitioners can intervene early in an individual’s life before they experience further trauma. However, past research has neglected to use a comprehensive approach (e.g., using multiple theoretical frameworks, assessing the frequency of ACE occurrences). The current study addresses these gaps in the literature by assessing the impact of variables related to three frameworks on adulthood sexual and physical assault victimization: (1) state dependence theory, (2) population heterogeneity theory, and (3) target congruence theory. The respondents answered the ACE indicator questions using a Likert scale ranging from “never” to “very often.” Because of the varying frequencies, these answers were coded in two ways: (1) a more conservative approach in which only answers of “often” and “very often” were coded as “yes” for having experienced, and (2) a more inclusive approach in which answers of “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often,” and “very often” were coded as “yes” for having experienced. Both of these coding variations were examined in model estimations to determine whether they affected the substantive findings. Data were analyzed from an online survey administered by YouGov and completed by a national sample of adults (N = 1,693). Findings indicated support for all three theories. Factors related to state dependence theory (i.e., child sexual abuse), population heterogeneity theory (i.e., substance use), and target congruence theory (i.e., physical neglect, having an incarcerated family member, being Black or Hispanic) were positively correlated with both sexual and physical assault victimization in adulthood. Some variables, namely running away before age 18, were associated with adult sexual victimization only, while others, including impulsivity, substances in the home, and relying on strangers, were associated with adult physical victimization only. Regarding coding variations, some of these variables (i.e., substances in the home, physical neglect, having an incarcerated family member) were correlated with both sexual and physical assault victimization for just one of the ACE coding variations, while others (i.e., child sexual abuse, substance use) were correlated with both sexual and physical assault victimization regardless of the ACE coding variation. These findings provide direction for future research, such as using multiple theoretical approaches and coding ACEs with different variations, as well as guide future policymaking in the area of childhood trauma and adult victimization.


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