How Often Were You Traumatized? Reconceptualizing Adverse Childhood Experiences for Sexual and Gender Minorities

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Introduction:: The manifold consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are well-documented. Recent research has demonstrated that sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) typically encounter ACEs more often than cisgender heterosexual individuals. Given the higher exposure rate, the measurement of frequency of exposure to traumatic events may be relevant for SGMs. Methods:: We changed the response options of the ACEs index from dichotomous to a five-point Likert scale that described frequency of exposure. As part of a larger community-based participatory research study, the Likert ACEs measure was distributed to a large and diverse sample of SGM participants in San Antonio. Results:: A cross-validation design demonstrated that the Likert ACEs scores outperformed the traditional ACEs index in predicting self-reported anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Half of the SGMs in this sample experienced 3 or more ACEs, compared to only 10% of Americans in a nationally representative sample. Limitations:: These analyses were based on retrospective self-report data instead of structured clinical interviews. Since only the Likert ACEs was administered, we had to assume that any response other than “never” on Likert ACEs corresponded to “yes” on the ACEs Index. Conclusions:: Future research may assess the utility of the Likert ACEs approach with other minoritized or intersectional populations. For clinical practitioners, these results suggest that a better way to measure ACEs for SGMs is to ask them how often they were exposed, rather than asking whether they were exposed.




Elsevier B.V.

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Journal of Affective Disorders