The effects of absorption and traumatic exposure on PTSD symptoms after the September 11th 2001 World Trade Center attacks

Robert L Henderson, Pace University


Psychological literature showed that absorption was a distinct personality trait that was correlated with both positive and negative affective states. There was often an assumption made that traumatic life experiences were events that were highly absorptive experiences for those that had a high absorptive capacity. For some individuals, the results were PTSD symptoms or a PTSD diagnosis, while in others there was a sense of psychological resiliency. The amount and type of exposure to a traumatic life experience, whether in proximal or direct contact, peripherally through hearing the accounts of others, or from intense media coverage, resulted in PTSD symptoms for some individuals while others demonstrated more resiliencies. Given the fact that those high on absorption experienced these events more intensely than low absorbers, it seemed plausible that absorption, along with amount and type of exposure, influenced how one experienced these traumatic circumstances. This study evaluated several hypotheses based on these assumptions utilizing an archival database of Pace University students' experiences following the terrorist attacks on September 11 th 2001. Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficients were conducted for the predictor variables absorption and type of traumatic exposure with the three outcome variables PTSD symptom scores at time 1, PTSD symptom scores at time 2, and PTSD change scores. Proximity exposure, media exposure, and trait absorption were correlated positively with PTSD scores at time 1 and time 2, but not with PTSD change scores. To evaluate the moderation effects, exposure, absorption, and the absorption by exposure cross product were regressed on the three outcome variables. Significant interaction effects were found with PTSD symptom scores at time 2 for models with proximity and media exposure and for PTSD change scores only with model for proximity exposure. However, these results were counterintuitive to theoretical postulations in some cases. Exploratory analyses were also conducted to look at results when depression, anxiety, and gender were held constant. One important implication for the field of School-Clinical Child Psychology is that these results indicate how type of traumatic exposure and absorption interact in different circumstances as both a buffer and risk factor for higher PTSD symptom report.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Henderson, Robert L, "The effects of absorption and traumatic exposure on PTSD symptoms after the September 11th 2001 World Trade Center attacks" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3318772.



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