Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Suzanne Swan


The field of trauma and victimization has undergone many evolutions in its efforts to conceptualize the impacts of victimization and more recently poly-victimization. Poly-victimization refers to the experiencing of multiple types of victimization over the lifespan. This has led to an ever-growing base of literature highlighting the many deleterious effects of these experiences on individuals’ wellbeing, and the factors which may make a person more vulnerable to victimization. However, a growing movement in the field aims to take a more strengths-based perspective that highlights the resilience of individuals, rather than risk factors, in the hopes of better understanding the factors that contribute to how adversity can be overcome. Using the Resilience Portfolio Model as a lens, the current study aims to examine the role of an individual’s self-esteem as a psychological strength in promoting resilience and psychological wellbeing among young adults who have experienced at least two childhood victimizations. While some prior research has found that self-esteem can serve as a psychological strength, studies have not yet examined the impact of self-esteem in tandem with other poly-strengths to capture a comprehensive look at the psychological and social resources that make up resilience. Furthermore, the existing literature has been conducted predominantly outside of the United States and a very limited number have examined young adult populations. Self-esteem is important to examine because it captures an internal point of strength that could be built or leveraged to provide individuals with resilience in maintaining psychological wellbeing after victimization. Therefore, this study examined the relationships between childhood poly-victimization (Birth to 17 years old), self-esteem, poly-strengths, and psychological wellbeing in young adults (ages 18-29). The study also contributes to the limited extant literature by identifying self-esteem as a psychological strength, in addition to other poly-strengths, and explores the extent to which it contributes to psychological wellbeing. Data was collected through CloudResearch Panels hosted on the Qualtrics website. The study included 280 participants, between the ages of 18-29 years old, who were currently residing in the United States and endorsed two or more victimization items on a measure of victimization experiences in childhood (ages 0-17). Findings contribute to extant literature around the Resilience Portfolio Model, specifically, by identifying the notable role of specific individual poly-strengths as contributing to psychological wellbeing. The individual strengths of Purpose and Social Support-Family showed significant positive associations with satisfaction with life and the strength of Emotion Regulation showed significant negative association with trauma symptoms. Higher self-esteem was significantly associated with both higher satisfaction with life and lower trauma symptoms. Most importantly, these findings highlight that self-esteem does positively influence psychological wellbeing and could be an important potential addition to the Resilience Portfolio Model conceptualization of poly-strengths when examining human resilience in the face of adversity and poly-victimization. These findings also fill the gaps in the field by examining a U.S.-based, young adult population while corroborating the limited extant research around the potential importance of self-esteem as a psychological strength for psychological wellbeing. Exploring the resilience factors that promote positive wellbeing outcomes, enables the field of victimization to take both a prevention and intervention approach to reducing the incidence of victimization and re-victimization. From a prevention perspective, this could be done by utilizing knowledge about specific psychological and social strengths that could be built up and leveraged to protect children against the impacts of adverse life events and possible future victimization. Alternatively, from an intervention approach, this same knowledge could be used to intervene in areas where individuals may have deficits that are leading to poorer life outcomes and possibly increasing their chances of re-victimization. The findings of this study highlight yet another prevention and intervention point, self-esteem, that can be utilized to promote positive outcomes in children and adults who are at risk of or have experienced victimization.


© 2023, Nakisa Asefnia