Toward the Assessment of Adverse Adult Experiences: An Initial Validation Study of the Adult Experiences Survey

Mersky, J. P., Plummer Lee, C., & Janczewski, C. E. (2020). Toward the Assessment of Adverse Adult Experiences: An Initial Validation Study of the Adult Experiences Survey. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Objective: The current investigation is a validation study of the Adult Experiences Survey, a seminal assessment of adverse adult experiences.

Method: Data were collected between July 2015 and June 2019 from a sample of 1,747 low-income women as part of a longitudinal study in Wisconsin, United States. Analyses of 10 adversities were conducted to assess item prevalence and internal consistency in the full sample and test-retest reliability in a subsample of 90 participants. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were performed to examine the factor structure of the measure, and multivariate regressions were conducted to estimate the effects of adult adversity on 3 health-related outcomes: poor physical health, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Results: Most participants (86%) endorsed at least 1 adversity. Each item demonstrated good test-retest reliability except crime victimization, and the full measure had sound internal consistency. Each adversity was associated with all health-related outcomes at the bivariate level, and most were linked to 1 or more outcomes in multivariate analyses. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses validated 1- and 2-factor solutions with good fit. A cumulative adult adversity score was associated with all study outcomes controlling for adverse childhood experiences, and effects associated with a latent adversity score were even larger in magnitude.

Conclusions: Extending research on adverse childhood experiences, the findings indicate that adverse adult experiences can be measured reliably and validly using a brief assessment. Implications are discussed, including opportunities to advance the study of trauma and resilience over the life course.

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