The effects of perceived social support and coping self-efficacy on trauma symptoms after a traumatic event

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Courtney Johanna Pfeifer (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Kia Asberg

Abstract: Individuals who have had a traumatic experience are more likely to report psychological maladjustment, such as posttraumatic stress (Marx & Sloan, 2003). However, not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress, and only a fraction (<10%) will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000). Given the discrepancy between the large number of individuals that report traumatic experience and those who actually develop posttraumatic stress symptoms, research has focused on possible moderators of this relationship. For example, previous research suggests that perceived social support (Haden, Scarpa, Jones, & Ollendick, 2007) and coping self-efficacy (Cieslak, Benight, & Lehman, 2008) may independently influence the relationship between trauma and posttraumatic distress among college students, though contribution and interplay among variables that may buffer the impact of traumatic events remains poorly understood, especially among emerging adults in college (Haden et al., 2007). Thus, the present study examined perceived social support and coping self-efficacy in relation to self-reported trauma symptomatology in a college student sample. This study also utilized both traumatic frequency and traumatic load (number of different traumatic events) as an indicator of traumatic events to examine the relative contributions of each of these variables. Results indicate that trauma symptomatology was inherently different based on sex, with women reporting significantly more symptomatology relative to men. Traumatic load was a significant predictor of traumatic symptomatology as indicated by the PTSD Checklist - Civilian version and approached significance in the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40, while traumatic frequency (absolute number of traumatic events) was not a significant predictor of trauma symptomatology as indicated by either the PTSD Checklist - Civilian version or the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40. Perceived social support and coping self-efficacy were both significant predictors of trauma symptomatology, such that as perceived social support and coping self-efficacy increase, trauma symptomatology decreases, irrespective of the outcome measure used. Findings point to differences between males and females in terms of trauma symptomatology, and also indicate that how the trauma is operationalized (and measured) is of importance. Finally, social support and coping self-efficacy predicted psychological adjustment (trauma symptoms) beyond sex and the event itself, suggesting their utility for inclusion in interventions with college students who have experienced trauma.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
coping self-efficacy, perceived social support, symptoms, trauma
Psychic trauma
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Social networks

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