Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies


Developmental Science


Human Development and Family Science

First Advisor

Sue K. Adams


Children who have been exposed to or experienced trauma are at increased risk for developing persistent reactions that impede their daily functioning. Any situation in which a child fears for their life, anticipates injury, witnesses violence, or loses a loved one can be viewed as a childhood traumatic episode (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2003). Moreover, those coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds find themselves especially vulnerable to the effects of trauma and mental health outcomes as a result of the disparities linked to such backgrounds (Miech et al., 1999). Existing literature suggests that a medical diagnosis, as well as subsequent complex interactions within the medical environment, can lead to the development of medical trauma (Hall & Hall, 2017). The purpose of the current study was to explore the association between medical diagnoses, race, and low-income status in childhood, and subsequent mental health outcomes in emerging adulthood. Using a biopsychosocial model, data from 4,196 participants in the AddHealth Survey were examined using logistic regression analyses. Analyses investigated the likelihood of poor mental outcomes such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidality in participants with a history of asthma or cancer. In all regression analyses, the sample was split by White versus Nonwhite Minority status to explore racial differences in health outcomes, while income was dichotomized into high- and low-income status. Findings suggested income status as a significant predictor of mental health conditions in both asthma and cancer patients. Asthma significantly predicted elevated risk of anxiety in the Non-White Minority sample, and elevated risk of PTSD in both groups. With these findings in mind, practitioners should consider the complex interactions among race, income, chronic illness and risk of poor mental health outcomes.



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