Examining the Relationship Between Trauma Centrality and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Moderated Mediation Approach

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The degree to which a traumatic event is seen as central to an individual’s sense of self (trauma centrality) has been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Based on cognitive models of PTSD that highlight the role that maladaptive appraisals play in generating PTSD symptoms, we hypothesized that appraising a trauma as violating one’s core beliefs and goals mediates the link between trauma centrality and PTSD symptoms. Further, we reasoned that coping ability moderates the direct and indirect link, as those with better coping abilities likely have more adaptive appraisals. Hypotheses were examined in a cross-sectional sample of 367 undergraduates who had experienced a traumatic event. Data were collected via an online survey. Overall, results of the moderated mediation analysis were consistent with the hypothesized mediating role for appraised violations and the moderating role for coping ability. Findings highlight the importance of considering individual differences and trauma appraisals in understanding the relationship between trauma centrality and PTSD—trauma centrality may be related to PTSD symptoms more so among people with poorer coping abilities and among those who appraise a trauma as violating their core beliefs and goals.

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