Protective Factors Against Complex Trauma Among a Community Sample of Adolescents

Abigail Wren, Fordham University

Abstract

Youth with exposure to chronic interpersonal traumatic events that occur early in life are at risk for developing a set of negative reactions conceptualized as complex trauma. However, not all those with complex trauma exposure go on to develop complex trauma reactions. The development of competence or adaptive functioning despite exposure to adversity is defined as resilience, and dispositional, environmental, and biological factors that work together to promote resilience are referred to as protective factors. A broad range of potential protective factors at the individual, family, and community levels were explored, and five were retained for evaluation in the current study: supportive relationships, extracurricular activities, school connectedness, religion, and spirituality. It was anticipated that the presence of these protective factors in adolescents' lives would buffer the relationship between complex trauma exposure and complex trauma reactions. ^ Self-report measures were completed by 199 middle-school students in a rural community school in the southwestern United States. Using study-specific criteria, 79 participants were categorized as having complex trauma exposure. As hypothesized, increased levels of complex trauma exposure predicted increased levels of complex trauma reactions. Additionally, supportive relationships moderated the relationship between complex trauma exposure and complex trauma reactions. There was limited support for the potential protectiveness of spirituality against complex trauma reactions. Support was not found for the protectiveness of school connectedness, involvement in extracurricular activities, or religiosity against complex trauma reactions. Specific sociodemographic factors of eligibility for free/reduced lunch (used as a proxy for socioeconomic status) and gender influenced the moderating role of the protective factors. Finally, the total number of protective factors present for each individual did not moderate the relationship between complex trauma exposure and complex trauma reactions. ^ Future studies should further assess these potential protective factors longitudinally. The research also has important clinical implications. Specifically, youth with complex trauma exposure would likely benefit from interventions designed to bolster supportive relationships and potentially spirituality. Additionally, in-depth interventions aimed to help a given young person achieve a high level on a single protective factor are likely to be more beneficial than those leading to low to moderate levels of competency on many protective factors.^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Wren, Abigail, "Protective Factors Against Complex Trauma Among a Community Sample of Adolescents" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10932073.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI10932073

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