Using the Trauma Film Paradigm to Explore Interpersonal Processes After Trauma Exposure

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Abstract

Objective: The present study sought to examine ways in which social support might influence trauma symptoms using a variation of the trauma film paradigm. Method: Sixty-seven undergraduate female students in romantic relationships were randomized to watch a stressful film clip depicting a sexual assault, either in the presence (PP) or absence (PA) of their romantic partner. Results: Analyses showed that the PP condition experienced more intrusive memories of the film than the PA condition. In addition, participants in the PP condition whose romantic partner reported low relationship trust had higher film-related distress than participants in the PP condition whose romantic partner reported high relationship trust. Observational coding of partner behaviors after viewing the film clip found that greater expression of negative emotion from partners predicted participants’ negative affect and intrusive memories over time. Positive emotional support did not have any effect upon participants’ distress. Conclusions: Findings identify possible ways in which interpersonal processes influence trauma adjustment and suggest that the trauma film paradigm can be adapted to examine the role of interpersonal processes in post-trauma adjustment.

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