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Public Health


Wen-Hung Kuo


Veteran suicide is a public health issue that requires more research to understand the multidimensional factors, such as resilience, that lead someone to suicide. Adverse childhood events (ACEs), such as poverty and abuse, have affected how resilience is developed. This study examined the association between childhood factors of socioeconomic status, parental discipline, and being a military child, and adult resiliency level. Dienstbier's theory of mental toughness framed the study, which posits that a child who experiences mild ACEs and has time to recover between events, will be more resilient than children who experience serious ACEs, and children who experience little to no ACEs. Army veterans recruited through social media and veterans' organizations, answered an online survey consisting of demographic questions, the Harsh Discipline Scale and 9 item Resiliency Scale. No significant associations were found between these ACEs and resilience level. However, when the harsh discipline scale was analyzed by individual questions, associations were shown between spanking and high resilience with reported answers of "almost always" having higher level of resilience (OR = 12.001, p = .032), and those who reported they were hit with an object scored much lower on resilience than any other category measured. Examining resilience questions individually showed that low and middle socio-economic status had statistically significant higher resilience in responding to extreme pressure in a positive way. More research is needed on these specific ACEs using Dienstbier's theory. Understanding how specific ACEs affect resilience could lead to developing better prevention strategies that focus on helping children process these ACEs and develop higher resilience as adults, thus reducing suicide in the civilian and veteran population.

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