Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology


Educational Psychology and Methodology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 129 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Gabriel Schlomer

Committee Members

Zheng Yan, Allison Appleton


Locus of control, Stress in children, Epigenetics, Child mental health, Child mental health services, Poverty, Psychic trauma in children

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are negative events and environments (e.g., poverty) that occur during childhood and are known to undermine health and wellbeing. Adverse childhood experiences are related to cognitive outcomes in populations of children. A specific area of cognition associated with ACEs is locus of control (LoC). While the association between ACEs and LoC is clear, what is not well understood is how—that is, through what mechanism—ACEs influence LoC. The purpose of this research was to evaluate epigenetic age as a potential mechanism connecting ACEs with LoC. To address this hypothesis, a mediation model was evaluated using the Accessible Resource for Integrated Epigenomic Studies (ARIES) cohort. The final analytic sample included N = 894 children. In this study, epigenetic age did not mediate the relationship between poverty and locus of control, indirect effect ß = -0.002, 95% bootstrap CI [-0.012, 0.007]. The associations remained null when genders were evaluated independently and when the components of the poverty variable—financial difficulties and neighborhood stress—were evaluated independently. The null findings suggest that the severity of adversity in childhood matters, poverty may take time to influence epigenetic age and LoC, some poverty indicators are more influential than others, epigenetic age is an idiosyncratic variable, females may be more sensitive to adversity, and other biological mechanisms linking poverty and locus of control are worth considering.