Trauma and Event Centrality: Valence and Incorporation Into Identity Influence Well-Being More Than Exposure

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Although the association between trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms is well established, how such trauma is incorporated into identity, or the centrality of the negative event, is also of considerable importance in understanding the development of psychological symptoms. Alternatively, positive event centrality may have positive effects on well-being in the face of trauma. Thus, the current study examined associations between positive and negative event centrality, and both adaptive and maladaptive outcomes, above and beyond the impact of traumatic experience. A sample of 214 college students completed a series of self-report questionnaires. As anticipated, negative event centrality predicted PTSD and other maladaptive measures of functioning, even after controlling for traumatic experience. High levels of positive event centrality predicted adaptive, as opposed to maladaptive, psychological functioning. Results also suggested that both positive and negative event centrality predicted posttraumatic growth, controlling for traumatic experience. These findings suggest that assessing centrality of trauma may also be valuable in the prediction of psychological symptoms. The implications of these findings and proposals for future work are discussed further.

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