Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Lennis Echterling

Robin Anderson

Anne L. Stewart


As the body of research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has grown over the last few decades, a gap between how individuals and families experience and cope with such adversities in Western societies versus in non-Western communities has also widened. Moreover, many studies conducted in low/middle-income countries on ACEs have looked at marginalized populations, such as children-soldiers, homeless children, refugee camps, etc. The present study, on the other hand, sought to explore childhood adversities, as well as current emotional well-being and coping strategies for Burundian well-educated, high-functioning young adults. A survey of 100 Burundian college students documented many adverse childhood experiences, including 95% reporting that they had witnessed community violence. Most respondents also suffered emotional abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. Significantly, all interviewees expressed mistrust of others, reflecting a pervasive insecurity in social attachments. They evidenced a tendency to retreat, process, and resolve adversities alone. Furthermore, their coping style was characterized as solution-orientation, minimization, or normalization of the issue. Absent from their processing was emotional attunement and self-compassion. Those who reported higher levels of adverse experiences were also more likely to use drugs to cope and to have strained relationships. Those with relatively fewer adverse experiences were more likely to express a sense of hope for the future. This study comes as a unique contribution in that it offers a greater understanding of the experiences that Burundians have endured, the psychological impact of these experiences, and the need for mental health services, even among high-functioning Burundians in college.



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