Ethnoracial and Educational Differences in Victimization History, Trauma-Related Symptoms, and Coping Style

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Abstract

Ethnoracial and educational differences in victimization history, trauma-related symptoms, and coping were investigated with 145 low-income urban African American (40%), Latina (18%), and White (41%) women who had full or subthreshold posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and were enrolled in a treatment study. Participant educational backgrounds ranged from high school or less (57%) to some college (43%). Most reported a history of adult victimization (80%), and about half had histories of homelessness, substance use disorder, criminal justice involvement, and childhood victimization with no differences between ethnoracial groups. Victimization history and ethnoracial background were largely unrelated to severity of depression, dissociation, PTSD, or substance-related problems, but lower education level was associated with more severe symptoms in all domains. For African American women only, adult victimization was associated with more severe PTSD symptoms, and, unexpectedly, childhood victimization was related to less severe dissociation. Self-reported coping styles were comparable across all ethnoracial and education subgroups: Self-blame coping correlated with more severe depression and dissociation symptoms, whereas action coping correlated with less severe depression and dissociation. African American women reported more spiritual coping than Latina women. Ethnoracial- and education-specific patterns of correlations between coping skills and symptom severity measures were also observed. Educational attainment may play a protective role for victimized women regardless of ethnoracial background. The role of ethnoracial background with regard to victimization, coping, and symptoms was more complex and warrants further research.

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