Date of Award

8-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Greg Brack

Second Advisor

Telsie Davis

Third Advisor

Don Davis

Fourth Advisor

Catherine Y. Chang

Abstract

Sexual assault and the resulting impact within the African American community continues to be an under researched phenomenon (Bryant-Davis, Chung, & Tillman, 2009). Although positive affect was presented as a protective model within the general population (Fredrickson, 1998), empirical research exploring its potential for use within the African American community is sparse. The objective of this study was to investigate the mediating role of positive affect in the development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) post sexual assault in African American women, within an economically disadvantaged community. Thus, this study tested the hypotheses that Positive Affect (PA) would mediate the effects of sexual assault occurring before age 13 (FSC < 13), between ages 14 and 17 (FSC 14-17), and after age 17 (FSC > 17) on PTSD related symptoms (MPSS). Data from 749 African American were analyzed. A bias-corrected bootstrapping analysis revealed that PA mediated the effect of FSC < 13 on MPSS, 95% CI [.418, 1.778]. The indirect effect of PA accounted for 12.3% of the effect of FSC < 13 on MPSS. A second bias-corrected bootstrapping analysis revealed that PA mediated the effect of FSC 14-17 on MPSS, 95% CI [.671, 2.344]. The indirect effect of PA accounted for 14.8% of the effect of FSC 14-17 on MPSS. A third bias-corrected bootstrapping analysis revealed that PA mediated the effect of FSC > 17 on MPSS, 95% CI [.741, 2.568]. The indirect effect of positive affect accounted for 14.0% of the effect of FSC > 17 on MPSS. The results of this study suggest that women who are higher in positive affect are less likely to endorse symptoms related to PTSD post sexual assault, while those presenting with lower levels of positive affect are more likely to endorse PTSD related symptoms post sexual assault. The results of these analyses appear to be consistent with Fredrickson’s (1998) theory that positive affect enhances psychological resources for the individual.

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