Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Specialization

Clinical Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Ellen C. Flannery-Schroeder

Abstract

The relationship between childhood maltreatment and internalizing disorders, such as anxiety and depression, is well-substantiated; however, fewer studies have investigated the pathways leading to this association. Additionally, although rates of internalizing disorders are higher among maltreated individuals than in the general population, less is known about why some maltreated individuals appear resilient, continuing to thrive and display relatively normative development despite these traumatic experiences. Accordingly, research has begun to investigate the interplay between coping and resilience in relation to long-term outcomes following childhood maltreatment. While resilience may influence how a stressor is appraised, coping strategies refer to the cognitive and behavioral approaches an individual utilizes to manage a stressor following its appraisal. Therefore, resilience may inform the selection of coping strategies used by an individual, subsequently influencing the development or severity of psychopathology. The present study is among the first to examine how resilience and coping strategies interact to contribute to internalizing symptomology in a maltreated sample. Participants were recruited from the community and through online methods and included 242 adults (MAge = 29.12, SD = 12.92) who endorsed maltreatment experiences during childhood. All data was collected online, and participants completed measures assessing childhood trauma, resilience, coping, and mood and anxiety disorders. Findings revealed that overall resilience buffered the relationship between childhood maltreatment severity and depression, such that individuals who reported high levels of resilience endorsed similar depression symptomology regardless of their maltreatment severity during childhood. No relationship was observed between maltreatment severity and generalized anxiety. Further, no coping strategies mediated the relationship between overall resilience and symptoms of generalized anxiety or depression. However, behavioral disengagement partially mediated the relationship between individual-level resilience and generalized anxiety as well as depression, offering evidence that individual-level resilience factors (e.g., personal skills, social skills) may uniquely contribute to the selection of coping strategies. No gender differences were observed in resilience or internalizing symptoms. Cultural and contextual factors, including socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity, were also investigated through exploratory analyses to assess their interaction with resilience, coping, and internalizing symptoms. Notable limitations of this study included a homogeneous sample, non-normality of the data, and unequal group sizes. Implications for early intervention and treatment, as well as directions for future research, are discussed.

Available for download on Sunday, December 26, 2021

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