Date of Conferral







Sandra Rasmussen


Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Illness Perceptions among Individuals with Fibromyalgia


Susan D. Fay

MS, Drexel University, 1994

BS, Metropolitan State University of Denver, 1983

Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Walden University

February 2015

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including abuse and neglect, are a significant social health problem. Exposure to ACEs can place a child at a high risk for developing different diseases or illnesses in adulthood, including fibromyalgia. The purpose of this study was to determine if exposure to ACEs, moderated by perceived social support and/or social undermining, would result in more negative illness perceptions of personal control and/or treatment control. A survey research design was used in this quantitative study. Purposive convenience sampling methods were used to solicit 231 participants to complete an online survey. Moderated multiple regression analysis was used to assess the moderating roles of perceived social support and social undermining on the relationship between ACEs with personal control and treatment control facets of illness perceptions among individuals with fibromyalgia. Developmental traumatology, allostatic load, social support, social undermining, and illness perceptions served as the theoretical and empirical foundation for this study. Social undermining was found to be a significant moderator of the relationship between sexual abuse, perceived social support, and personal control perceptions, F(7, 174) = 1.28, p <.001, but only when levels of social undermining were moderate to high. The relationship was not significant for treatment control perceptions as the criterion variable, or for physical or emotional abuse as predictor variables. Positive social change implications include an expanded knowledge of important social and psychological factors that influence the health of fibromyalgia patients, especially those exposed to sexual abuse. Such information can assist health care providers develop more effective therapies, treatments, and screening protocols.