Experiencing child maltreatment is a risk factor for later psychopathology, however, not all survivors of child maltreatment go on to develop mental illness. Therefore, there are likely important moderators that interact with child maltreatment to contribute to the development of psychopathology. The present study examined attachment and stress severity of life events as possible moderators in the association between child maltreatment and later depressive symptomatology in a population of college students. Participants completed measures of attachment, stressful life events, current mood symptoms, and demographic information. An attachment style characterized by anxiety and avoidance, and greater cumulative stress severity were expected to exacerbate the effect of child maltreatment on depressive symptomatology. Anxious attachment to primary caregivers moderated the relationship between child maltreatment and depressive symptoms. This study found no support for the other moderation hypotheses, however, the main effect of stress severity was significant over and above the effects of child maltreatment. These variables, as well as child maltreatment itself, may result in disruptions in the development of adaptive emotion, and stress regulation. This research highlights important areas of intervention in cases of child maltreatment.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Child abuse--Psychological aspects; Depression, Mental--Etiology

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Experimental Psychology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


Lindsay S. Schenkel

Advisor/Committee Member

John E. Edlund

Advisor/Committee Member

Stephanie A. Godleski


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes