Honors Program

Midway Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Diana Morelen, Rachel Clingensmith

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Andrea Clements


Previous research suggests that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can greatly impact a child’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing later in life. ACE exposure has been associated with lower levels of empathy in the literature. Spirituality is often associated with a number of positive outcomes, including those associated with empathy, like prosocial behaviors. The present study examines spirituality as a buffer against reduced empathy in those with exposure to adverse events in childhood. Participants for this study were recruited through the SONA research platform at East Tennessee State University as part of a larger research project, the REACH (Religions, Emotions, and Current Health) study. Results of this study did not support the working hypotheses that we would find a negative correlation between ACEs and empathy, as well as a moderation relationship via spirituality between ACEs and empathy. However, we did find that empathy was positively associated with spirituality, and ACEs were negatively associated with spirituality. Future research should dig deeper into the relationship between ACEs and empathy, as well as search for other possible protective factors for the effects of ACEs.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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