Individual differences in posttraumatic stress symptomatology following childhood sexual abuse

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Peter Mundy - Committee Chair


A model of individual differences in outcome following childhood sexual abuse was evaluated in a clinical sample of thirty-six adolescents with a history of maltreatment. Variables including abuse factors, temperamental factors, information processing style, and the use of dissociation were examined in their relation to outcome symptom level. It was predicted that environmental and temperamental variables would relate to process variables, which would in turn relate to individual differences in outcome. Results of this study did not support a mediational model. However, portions of the model were supported. First, the temperamental variables of behavioral inhibition (BIS) and behavioral activation (BAS) were found to differentially relate to outcome across five symptom clusters, with BIS more strongly related to anxiety, avoidance, and re-experiencing symptoms, and BAS related most strongly to anger. Second, the use of dissociation strongly related to measured level of posttraumatic symptoms. Third, information processing style was found to vary by outcome level of avoidance symptoms, with high-avoidance subjects demonstrating a greater bias toward threatening information than low-avoidance subjects. These results support a model of individual differences in outcome following childhood maltreatment, based both on temperamental factors as well as on processing variables. Clinical and research implications are discussed.


Psychology, Clinical

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