The Moderating Role of Trauma Type on the Relationship Between Event Centrality of the Traumatic Experience and Mental Health Outcomes

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Abstract

Objective: Event centrality, or the extent to which traumatic events are perceived to be integral to one’s life, has been found to be predictive of trauma-related symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Less research has been devoted to whether event centrality is related to adaptive outcomes, such as posttraumatic growth (PTG) and resiliency, and psychological well-being (PWB) has not been investigated. Given the unique circumstances of different types of traumas, the relationship between event centrality and posttrauma functioning may differ by the type of trauma experienced. Method: The present study investigated the direct relationships between event centrality and PTSD, depression, PTG, resiliency, and PWB, and then examined whether type of trauma (i.e., sexual victimization, death of a loved one, serious illness/injury, violence exposure) moderated the relationship between event centrality and mental health outcomes among 429 trauma-exposed college students (Mage = 19.66, SD = 1.65; 78.6% female; 49.9% White). Results: Event centrality was positively related to PTSD, depression, and PTG, inversely linked with multiple indices of PWB, and unrelated to resiliency. Type of traumatic event moderated the relationship between event centrality and PTSD, as well as 4 subscales of PWB. When sexual trauma was the index event, event centrality was more strongly associated with PTSD and aspects of PWB compared to death of a loved one. Conclusions: Findings indicate the importance of trauma type when disentangling the relationships between event centrality and negative and positive outcomes and demonstrate the relevance of event centrality in understanding posttrauma functioning.

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