Model of posttraumatic stress reactions to sexual abuse in females / by Suzanne L. Barker-Collo.
Barker-Collo, Suzanne Lyn.
SubjectPost-traumatic stress disorder
Child sexual abuse - Psychological aspects
Adult child sexual abuse victims
Sexual abuse survivors
MetadataShow full item record
Sexual abuse is identified by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition) (DSM-IV, APA, 1994) as a possible precipitator of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). An estimated 50% of sexual abuse survivors will develop PTSD (Kiser, Heston, Millsap, & Pruitt, 1991; O’Neil & Gupta, 1991). Therefore, while exposure to a traumatic stressor such as sexual abuse is necessary in the development of PTSD, it is not sufficient A number of models have been proposed that attempt to describe the process of coping and symptom development associated with PTSD, and to account for individual differences in this process. One such model is Joseph, Williams, and Yule’s (1995) integrative cognitive-behavioural model of response to traumatic stress (see Figure I). The present stucfy evaluated Joseph, et al.’s (1995) model when applied to a sample of 122 female sexual abuse survivors from across Ontario, Canada. Participants completed survey packages which included measures for each of the variables presented in Joseph et al ’s (1995) model. The variable Event Stimuli was measured using the Sexual Experiences Survey (Koss & Orso, 1982; see Appendix A). Personality was measured using Neuroticism items of the NEO-PIR (Costa & McCrae, 1992; see Appendix C). Appraisal of the abuse was measured using a modified version of the Attributional Style Questionnaire (Peterson, Semmel, Baqrer, Abramson, Metalsky, & Seligman, 1982; see Appendix D). Coping and Crisis Support were measured using the Coping Responses Inventory (Moos, 1993; see Appendix E) and the Crisis Support Scale (Joseph, Andrews, Williams, & Yule, 1992; see Appendix F), respectively. Symptom outcomes, as indicated by the model variables Event Cognitions and Emotional States, were assessed by specified items of the Trauma Symptom Checklist- 40 (Elliott & Briere, 1991; see Appendix G). This study makes three main empirical contributions. First, MANOVA results indicate that response to abuse was significantly influenced by ethnicity, age at which abuse first occurred, and the type of mental health services currently being received. Caucasian individuals rated themselves lower on use of problem-focused coping strategies, vulnerability, impulsiveness, and self-blame than individuals of Native American ancestry. Those 15 years of age or less when first abused rated themselves higher on anxiety and lower on social supports while those in older age groups rated themselves in the opposite direction, individuals currently in counselling or on a waiting list rated themselves lower on anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Conversely, those currently in support groups rated themselves as higher on depression, anxiety, and vulnerability. Those currently in both counselling and a support group and those receiving no clinical services scored moderately on the three variables. Second, path analysis indicated that Joseph et al.’s (1995) model did not fit the data X[superscript 2](9) = 24.81, p< .01 (see Figure 6). When altered on the basis of hypothesized modifications, modification indices generated by the statistical program, and removal of non-significant paths, the model fit the data well X[superscript 2] (13) = 13.41, p > .4 (see Figure 7). As hypothesized, one modification that improved the fit of the model was the addition of a path from characteristics of the abuse to engagement of social support In the modified model, the sign of the path from crisis support to appraisals indicated that increased levels of crisis support were associated with maladaptive appraisals (i.e., self-blame). This relationship is opposite to that proposed by Joseph et al. (1995), where increased crisis support is proposed to lead to more adaptive appraisals, but is consistent with the second hypothesized modification to the model. When examined as a single construct, coping strategies was not found to significantly influence any other variables in the model. Finally, relationships between coping, appraisal, neuroticism and symptom subscales were evaluated. Individuals who coped through cognitive avoidance, emotional discharge, acceptance/resignation, and logical analysis following abuse reported more event cognitions, negative emotional states, sexual problems, and somatic complaints. Increased sexual and somatic complaints, negative emotional states, and event cognitions were accompanied by decreased depression, self-consciousness, anxiety, vulnerability, and impulsiveness, in contrast those who engaged in less cognitive avoidance, sought less support from others and engaged in less problem solving behaviours reported fewer sexual or somatic complaints. Reduced symptomatology (i.e., event cognitions, negative emotional states, somatic symptoms) was also associated with increased trait levels of anxiety, depression, and vulnerability and decreased impulsiveness. Implications of the findings for assessment and therapeutic interventions and for future research were explored.