Publication Date

Summer 2021

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Matthew Woodward (Director), Jenni Teeters, and Matthew Shake

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Exposure to a traumatic event has a high prevalence rate for U.S. adults, with almost 90% of individuals experiencing a trauma during their lifetime (Kilpatrick et al., 2013). This type of exposure can lead to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Previous research has shown that social support plays an important role in shaping whether PTSD symptoms develop (Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000). Although social support has been identified as an important predictor for PTSD, there is little research examining how specific social domains impact PTSD development following a traumatic event. Having a better understanding of this dynamic could help to improve and expand intervention and prevention efforts for those suffering with this disorder. The current study aimed to help bridge the gap in the trauma literature by using the trauma film paradigm to compare friend and romantic partners’ impact on distress when exposed to an analogue trauma. Participants included 32 participants randomized to watch a trauma film clip with their romantic partner and 50 participants randomized to watch a trauma film clip with a friend. Participants and their friend/partner were shown a film clip depicting a sexual assault and completed various measures of affect, anxiety, and intrusive memories. Results for this study showed that the friend condition had a significantly higher level of state anxiety following the film clip, however, there was no difference in subjective distress or negative affect post-film. Furthermore, there was a moderation effect that showed relationship trust affected post-film anxiety more strongly in the romantic partner condition. Finally, results showed there were no differences in the total number of intrusive memories experienced in each condition. Results from this study could help explicate the relationship between PTSD and social support and highlight the significance of relationship trust in trauma-related distress.


Clinical Psychology | Other Psychology | Psychiatry and Psychology

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