Trajectories of Psychological Distress Among Low-Income, Female Survivors of Hurricane Katrina

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate trajectories of psychological distress among low-income, primarily unmarried and African American women who survived Hurricane Katrina (N = 386). Data were collected in the year prior to the hurricane as well as approximately 1 and 3 years thereafter. Using Latent Class Growth Analysis (LCGA), we detected 6 distinct trajectory groups. Over half of the participants fit into a trajectory consistent with resilience; that is, they maintained low levels of psychological distress over the course of the study, but experienced an elevation in symptoms at the first predisaster time point followed by a return to predisaster levels. The other trajectories reflected a range of psychological responses to disasters and indicated that predisaster functioning had a major influence on postdisaster psychological outcomes. Degree of exposure to hurricane-related stressors, experiences of human and pet bereavement, perceived social support, and socioeconomic status were significant predictors of trajectory group membership. Implications for research and policy are discussed.

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