Negative outcomes associated with adverse childhood experiences are well established, but little is known about protective factors that could promote positive adjustment among high-risk youth. This study examined the potential protective role of positive peer relationships in the association between adverse childhood experiences and school engagement among at-risk adolescents. Data were collected prospectively from birth until age 16 from 831 diverse adolescents (52.6% female; 54% African American, 24% Caucasian) who were at-risk for family violence and their caregivers. The significant and negative associations between adversities and school engagement outcomes at age 16 were mitigated by peer intimacy and companionship and exacerbated by peer conflict. The findings underscore the importance of fostering positive peer relationships for improving school engagement among at-risk adolescents.
Keywords: ACEs; Adolescents; Adversity; Peer relationships; Protective factor; School engagement.