Understanding the Link between Childhood Trauma and Religious Involvement in Emerging Adults

  • Charlene Harris State University of New York at Oswego
  • Lisa R. Dunkley East Tennessee State University
  • Aaron Gardner East Tennessee State University


Researchers tend to see religion as a coping mechanism when it comes to early traumatic experiences. Based on the close link between religion and trauma, this study investigates the relationship between reports of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and religious involvement in a sample of emerging young adults. Data were collected from a sample of 250 undergraduate students (ages 18-26) at a northeastern public university in the United States. Hierarchical regression analyses provided evidence that ACEs negatively predicted religious involvement net the effects of background variables (sex and ethnicity). Findings showed that young adults with higher ACEs showed reduced religious involvement. The study findings also provided evidence that age consistently predicted religious involvement; as age increased, religious involvement decreased among young adults. Thus, the present study highlights an important link between ACEs in religious participation within this emerging adult sample. The findings can advance our understanding of emerging young adults’ adaptation to early traumatic experiences. Study implications are discussed.