The psychological correlates of post traumatic stress disorder

  • Michelle Hilder-Achurch

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis extends existing and contributes new knowledge to current understandings of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and examines why some individuals experience more severe symptoms than others. The research comprises three studies and employed three cross-sectional samples of Australian residents who have experienced a trauma event. The first sample consists of individuals who were central to or the victim of a trauma, the second employed individuals who intervened to help another person in a trauma event, and the third consisted of individuals who, as part of their employment, intervened to aid others.

    Two primary hypotheses guided this research. The first predicted that individuals’ peritraumatic experience, posttraumatic responses, and endorsement of PTSD symptoms would vary according to the type of involvement in trauma. The second suggested that adult attachment style, as applied as a theory of individual difference, would be associated with PTSD symptom expression. More specifically, well established robust predictors of PTSD symptoms would mediate this association through pathways unique to each attachment style.

    Overall, the results supported the hypotheses. PTSD symptom expression, peritraumatic distress, posttraumatic coping, resilience, and perceptions of available support varied as a function of the individual’s type of involvement in the trauma. Models describing possible relationships between attachment styles and PTSD symptom expression were tested across all three samples. Within each sample, mediation and multiple mediation analyses further clarify the underlying mechanisms regarding PTSD symptom expression, and the direct and indirect effects of attachment style. Distinctive pathways were evident between PTSD symptoms and each attachment style. Overall, secure attachment appears to be a protective factor facilitating optimal peritraumatic responses, and posttraumatic behaviours during peritraumatic and posttraumatic stages of trauma exposure. In contrast, preoccupied, fearful and dismissing attachments were associated with increased PTSD symptom expression. In summary, attachment theory proved to be an exceptional theory of individual differences for understanding the underlying mechanisms associated with symptoms of PTSD.
    Date of AwardMar 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMary Morris (Supervisor) & Peter Forster (Supervisor)

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