Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Immigrants to the United States

Michael G. Vaughn, Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Jin Huang, Zhengmin Qian, Lauren D. Terzis, Jesse J. Helton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


A growing number of studies have examined the “immigrant paradox” with respect to health behaviors in the United States. However, little research attention has been afforded to the study of adverse childhood experiences (ACE; neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing violence) among immigrants in the United States. The present study, using Waves I and II data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), aims to address these gaps by comparing forms of ACE of first- and second-generation immigrants with native-born American adults in the United States. We also examined the latent structure of ACE among immigrants and conducted analyses to assess the psychiatric correlates of identified latent classes. With the exception of neglect, the prevalence of ACE was markedly higher among native-born Americans and second-generation immigrants compared with first-generation immigrants. Four latent classes were identified—limited adverse experience (n = 3,497), emotional and physical abuse (n = 1,262), family violence (n = 358), and global adversity (n = 246). The latter three classes evinced greater likelihood of being diagnosed with a mood, anxiety, personality, and substance use disorder, and to report violent and non-violent antisocial behavior. Consistent with prior research examining the associations between the immigrant paradox and health outcomes, results suggest that first-generation immigrants to the United States are less likely to have experienced physical and sexual abuse and witness domestic violence. However, likely due to cultural circumstances, first-generation immigrants were more likely to report experiences that are deemed neglectful by Western standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1543-1564
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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