Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sondra J. Fogel, Ph.D., LCSW

Co-Major Professor

John K. Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Dwayne Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wesley G. Jennings, Ph.D.


adverse childhood experiences, capital punishment, juvenile death penalty, mitigation, youthful offenders


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their role as mitigators in capital sentencing is an important, yet relatively unexplored, topic in criminological literature. Using data from the North Carolina Capital Sentencing Project, this study explores the role of ACEs as mitigating factors for youthful and non-youthful capital offenders: whether youthful offenders are less likely to be sentenced to death, whether or not ACEs are effective as mitigating factors, and whether ACE mitigators are more effective for youthful or non-youthful offenders. Results show that youthful capital offenders are less likely to be sentenced to death than adult capital offenders, and while ACE variables effectively mitigate against a death sentence, they do not mitigate more effectively for youthful offenders than non-youthful offenders. These findings, along with policy implications and directions for future research, are then discussed.