Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

Karestan Koenen


Despite a growing interest in the factors that predict positive functioning, life satisfaction, and well-being following exposure to adverse, stressful, and/or traumatic experiences, exposure to inter-caregiver aggression in childhood has received relatively less attention. While the negative effects that exposure to inter-caregiver aggression can have on child development are well documented, the capacity for growth and resilience following these experiences has been relatively unstudied to date. The current study explored the roles of emotional support in childhood, emotional and cognitive processing, and posttraumatic growth as possible pathways to well-being after exposure to inter-caregiver aggression. Two hundred and sixty four participants from an urban university campus completed an online survey. One hundred and forty seven participants indicated that some form of inter-caregiver aggression including emotional aggression, violence, and/or physical injury occurred at least once between their caregivers before age 19 and completed the full study survey that included measures of exposure to inter-caregiver aggression, perceived emotional support, emotional and cognitive processing, and posttraumatic growth, as well as a broad range of well-being outcomes, specifically the absence of depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms, relationship satisfaction, valued living, and quality of life. It was hypothesized that emotional and cognitive processing, posttraumatic growth, and emotional support in childhood would be positively correlated with the measures of well-being. Emotional and cognitive processing and posttraumatic growth were expected to moderate the relationship between emotional support and well-being. Results revealed partial support for the study hypotheses. Emotional support in childhood demonstrated a consistent protective effect across all well-being outcomes above and beyond the effects of emotional and cognitive processing and posttraumatic growth. Posttraumatic growth moderated the relationship between emotional support and valued living, such that at lower levels of posttraumatic growth, emotional support was significantly correlated with valued living, but not at higher levels of posttraumatic growth. A discussion about how posttraumatic growth, emotional and cognitive processing, and perceived emotional support may be distinct pathways to well-being in this population is presented. Research and clinical implications of the findings of this study as well as limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.


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