Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

Document Type



Although older adults are the fastest growing age-demographic in the United States, mental health research, services, and practitioner interest in gerontology is not matching pace. The frequency and longstanding effects of traumatic childhood events necessitate robust and creative interventions to meet the needs of older adults. Growing support in the field of social work for community-based interventions and supports is a result of evidence posturing the efficacy of these models. Neighborhood-based relationships serve a unique function of socialization and social support in the lives of older adults. The literature thoroughly documents trauma’s influence on interpersonal relationships, but less is known concerning trauma’s influence on relationships with communities. Therefore, this dissertation aimed to illuminate this gap in the literature by exploring the influence of childhood trauma on older adults’ perceptions of community. Using secondary data obtained from wave three of the National Social, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), this dissertation employed ordered logistic regression to test hypotheses regarding childhood trauma and perceptions of community unsafety, trustworthiness, and helpfulness. Results from these analyses identified the significant effect of witnessed violence in childhood on the perception of unsafety in older adulthood. Furthermore, a number of demographic, social, health, and childhood characteristics were also shown to influence community perceptions across the three dimensions. These findings are discussed in the context of previous literature to recognize implications for social work practice, policy, and education as well as next steps for future studies.



Committee Chair

Scott Wilks

Available for download on Thursday, January 07, 2027

Included in

Social Work Commons