Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Christine L Larson

Committee Members

Hanjoo Lee, Terri deRoon-Cassini, Cecilia Hillard, Ryan Shorey


childhood maltreatment, childhood trauma, endocannabinoids, posttraumatic stress disorder, stress, traumatic injury


The ECSS plays a crucial role in regulation of the stress response, is modulated by exposure to acute and chronic stressors, and shows potential as a biomarker for PTSD. Changes in ECSS function are apparent in adults with a history of childhood maltreatment. Further, childhood maltreatment is a well-established pre-trauma risk factor for development of PTSD following a traumatic event in adulthood. No study to date has examined the contribution of ECSS function to the relationship between childhood maltreatment and PTSD following a subsequent trauma in adulthood. The current study aimed to investigate the relationship between exposure to threat and deprivation experiences in childhood, circulating endocannabinoid concentrations and development of chronic PTSD following traumatic injury. To that end, N= 46 participants underwent study procedures acutely post-trauma and at a 6-month follow-up visit. Data collection included a blood draw and self-reported history of childhood maltreatment and PTSD symptoms associated with traumatic injury. Replicating previous findings, results show exposure to threat (in the form of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse), but not deprivation (emotional and/or physical neglect), in childhood is predictive of chronic PTSD symptoms following a subsequent unrelated trauma in adulthood. The current study failed to replicate a small number of studies that have demonstrated a relationship between childhood maltreatment and circulating endocannabinoid levels in adulthood. While a mediational model including childhood threat experiences as predictor, AEA and 2-AG concentrations acutely post-trauma as mediators, and PTSD symptom severity 6-months post-traumatic injury as the outcome variable was significant overall (p=.003), only the direct paths for 2-AG levels to PTSD symptoms and childhood threat to PTSD symptoms were significant. These findings will be discussed within the context of the existing literature and important limitations of the current study.