Childhood Trauma, Posttraumatic Growth, and Narrative Transformation in a Gender Inclusive Women’s College



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In the late 1990s, a series of early life adversities (Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs) became a focus for the health community, as the effects of these traumas were diverse, covering both mental and physical health issues, and longstanding, reflecting neurological changes resulting from prolonged exposure to toxic stress. For survivors of childhood trauma, the college transition allows many to begin the healing process. However, most of the work studying growth from past ACEs has been done at large co-educational institutions, and which can silence survivors’ healing processes or be insensitive to the unique experiences a Gender Inclusive Women’s College provides. This mixed-methods study presents results from an investigation into posttraumatic outcomes (college adjustment and posttraumatic growth) for survivors of Adverse Childhood Experiences within a Gender Inclusive Women’s College environment, as well as student-perceived influences of such an environment on their growth narratives. In a sample of 103 first year students at Mount Holyoke College collected during the spring of 2019, it was found that 82.5% of students reported at least one major childhood trauma before entering college, and most reported at least three major childhood adversities. Major findings indicate that Adverse Childhood Experiences are negatively related to both first year GPA and college adjustment; supportive friend networks seem important in mediating this relationship. Findings from this study are used to explore ways in which colleges can work toward addressing the effects of childhood trauma in their student bodies.



trauma, adverse childhood experiences, ACEs, first-year, undergraduate, higher education, college transition, posttraumatic growth