Honors Program

Honors in Psychology

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Julia C. Dodd

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Stacey L. Williams


Risky sexual behaviors (RSB) have the potential to negatively impact individuals by increasing the risk of mental health issues, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unwanted pregnancies. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and mental health disorders, such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression, have been known to increase RSB. The purpose of this study was to see if these mental health disorders mediate the relationship between ACEs and RSB. Participants (n = 342, mean age = 32) were recruited through social media to complete an online questionnaire. While history of ACEs significantly predicted engagement in RSB as well as all three of the mental health measures, none of the three measures of mental health emerged as a significant mediator of the relationship between ACEs and engagement in RSB (depression: b = .0060, SE = .0568, 95% CI[-.1175, .1148]; anxiety: (b = -.0136, SE = .0565, 95% CI[-.1393, .0904]; PTSD: (b = .1131, SE = .0807, 95% CI[-.0313, .2867]. Ultimately, this research showed that the history of ACEs exerts a strong, direct effect on engaging in RSB, and that in this sample, mental health symptoms are not sufficient to explain this relationship. Therefore, other factors should be explored as possible mechanisms maintaining this relationship. Furthermore, future research efforts should extend this exploration to young participants that may be more likely to participate in RSB.


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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