Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Steven A. Branstetter.


Trauma exposure is prevalent among adolescents and may have a negative impact on social, educational, and occupational functioning. Research indicates that individual-level variables, such as impulsivity, may be risk factors for exposure to traumatic events but the findings have been mixed. This study examined the relation between impulsivity and accidental trauma exposure using a multi-method, multi-informant procedure with a community sample of 48 adolescents. Mean age was 15.2 (SD = 1.38) and the sample was predominantly female (62.5%) and predominantly Caucasian (87.5%). No significant difference was noted between genders in terms of number of traumatic events reported. As a whole, participants endorsed a wide range of potentially traumatic events with every single participant endorsing at least one event and every single event being endorsed by at least one participant with the exception of one (removed from parent's custody). Path analysis suggested that self-reported sensation seeking mediates the relation between self-reported impulsivity and accidental trauma exposure. This study provided valuable information with regards to factors that may serve to inform clinical practice within the area of adolescent trauma exposure. Findings from this study suggest that trauma exposure of any kind is nearly universal within an adolescent population. Given the widespread nature of this phenomenon, it is critically important that clinicians inquire fully about an adolescent's trauma history. Further, findings from this study suggest that clinicians should look beyond a standard view of trauma as being a high magnitude event and instead recognize that trauma is subjective and that even low grade stressors may have significant impact on adolescent functioning. Limitations of this study include small sample size and method variance. As such, future studies should be conducted that address these limitations and are longitudinal in design in order to better understand the relation between impulsivity and trauma exposure.