Investigation of the Relationships Among Trauma Exposure, Parental Representations, and Post-Trauma Symptoms

Allyn Pivar, Pace University


According to Breslau (1998), lifetime prevalence of traumatic exposure in community samples was found to range from 36.7% to 92.2% while lifetime estimates of PTSD range from 5.0% to 18.3%. Prior research has identified trauma type and attachment as variables that predict PTSD diagnosis and/or symptom severity. The aim of the current study is to examine symptom presentation across a broad range of traumatic events and by exploring how trauma type influences the relationship between attachment and symptom severity. Six hundred and nineteen individuals seeking psychological services at an outpatient clinic completed questionnaires assessing their interpretation of their relationship with their parents, exposure to various traumatic events, and PTSD related psychiatric symptoms of anxiety, anxiety-related disorders, depression, traumatic stress, affective depression, cognitive depression, physiological depression, negative relationships, thought disorders, and social detachment. Questionnaires included the Inventory of Parental Representations (IPR) (Hart, 1992), the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) (Morey, 1991), and the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS) (Foa, 1995). The majority of participants in this study were young adult females who have been exposed to one or more traumatic events. Sexual assault was found to be more highly associated with a diagnosis of PTSD than the other trauma groups studied. It was also more highly associated with PAI anxiety-related disorders, traumatic stress, depression, physiological depression, and thought disorders than the remaining five trauma types (accident/fire/explosion, natural disasters, life-threatening illness, sexual contact before age 18, and non-sexual assault). Results showed generally higher levels of post-trauma symptoms were associated with negative attachments and lower levels of symptoms associated with positive attachments to mother and father. In addition, trauma type was found to partially moderate the relationship between parental representations and trauma symptoms.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Pivar, Allyn, "Investigation of the Relationships Among Trauma Exposure, Parental Representations, and Post-Trauma Symptoms" (2012). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3535730.



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