Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Sharon Christ

Committee Chair

Sharon Christ

Committee Member 1

Aryn Dotterer

Committee Member 2

Zoe Taylor


Post-traumatic Stress (PTS) symptomology includes ruminating thoughts and feelings around trauma, inability to feel and express emotions, and avoidance of things related to the traumatic event (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Children and youth exposed to child maltreatment (abuse and neglect) are at higher risk of experiencing PTS. Extra-familial support, including peer support can reduce post-traumatic stress among youth (Pina et al., 2008). In the present study, Witnessing, Victimization, and Both Witnessing and Victimization due to Exposure to In-Home Violence and Peer Relationship Quality are evaluated as to their relative impact on PTS for children at risk for child maltreatment. Peer Relationship Quality is also tested as a moderator of the effects of violence exposures on PTS. Data come from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II (NSCAW II). Three waves of assessment were obtained starting in 2008 at 18 month intervals. A subsample of 2,151 children (2,071 children with non-missing values on the predictor, outcome and moderator variables) who were between the ages of 8 and 17 at any of the 3 waves was used.

A three process latent linear growth model was estimated to assess PTS, Peer Relationship Quality and Exposure to In-Home Violence. Each of three Exposure to In- Home Violence constructs were assessed separately. Findings suggest that the average PTS at baseline was about 9.18 points (on a 32 point scale) and PTS declines by about 0.58 points every year on average. Additionally, baseline Peer Relationship Quality was predictive of baseline PTS with higher scores on Peer Relationship Quality associated with lower PTS at baseline. Moreover higher Peer Relationship Quality over time was associated with declines in PTS over time. The baseline effect of Exposure to In-Home Violence was positively associated with baseline PTS. So more Exposure to In-Home Violence was related to more post-traumatic stress. Change in witnessing violence at home over time and change in both witnessing and victimization over time were strongly positively associated with change in PTS over time. Peer Relationship Quality did not moderate the association between baseline Exposure to In-home Violence and PTS levels at baseline nor between baseline Exposure to In-Home Violence and change in PTS over time.

These findings suggest several possible avenues for intervention for clinicians and help understand the dynamic associations between Exposure to In-Home Violence, Peer Relationship Quality and PTS in the population of children at risk for maltreatment.