The influence of the quality of adult attachment and degree of exposure to the World Trade Center disaster on post-traumatic stress symptoms in a college population

Pamela D Rothman, Pace University


This study examined self-reports of how an individual's (College students at Pace University) exposure (physical, emotional and media-related) to the World Trade Center Disaster (WTCD) was related to the development of symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, the quality of an individual's attachment to his/her romantic partner was measured to assess whether reports of such attachment relationships reliably predict an individual's response to the WTCD. Data collection began 5 months after September 11, 2001. Information collected included a Demographic Survey, an Exposure Questionnaire (EQ, The Multi-Item Measure of Adult Romantic Attachment (MIMARA), and the Screen for Posttraumatic Stress (SPTSS). The sample consisted of 271 Pace University students from both the New York City and Pleasantville campuses. Multiple regression analyses were employed to assess group differences in a variety of areas that included whether the amount of exposure and degree of attachment affected PTSD symptom severity. A follow-up assessment, at 8 months post WTCD, gathered new data about event-related experiences. PTSD symptoms and PTSD diagnosis were used as the criterion variables for the study. Results indicated that physical, emotional, media-related exposure, insecure adult romantic attachments, and being female significantly predicted PTSD symptom severity. In addition, or insecurely attached individuals (in contrast with those more securely attached) the level of emotional exposure one had to the WTCD was more directly associated with the reported development of PTSD symptoms. With regard to PTSD diagnosis, physical exposure, media-related exposure, insecure attachment, females and those from the Pleasantville campus were significant predictors. The only variable that predicted PTSD symptoms or diagnosis 8 months later was PTSD symptoms and diagnosis from the initial data collection. One important implication from this study is that college students who are exposed to trauma, even indirectly may still suffer from PTSD symptoms. Furthermore, those students with insecure romantic attachments will likely have more difficulty coping with traumatic events and more likely suffer from PTSD symptoms. Therefore, it is important that preventative and therapeutic interventions be developed which specifically target College students and take their developmental level into account. Included ought be specific goals for making such services more available to this population. In addition, recognizing an individual's pattern of romantic attachment is important for it provides a framework for understanding the important role that close personal and interpersonal play in his or her life relationships and provides a rationale for using interpersonal rather than exclusively symptom-focused interventions to reduce the distress of traumatic events.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Rothman, Pamela D, "The influence of the quality of adult attachment and degree of exposure to the World Trade Center disaster on post-traumatic stress symptoms in a college population" (2003). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3103516.



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