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Posttraumatic Symptomatology, Interpersonal Relationship Functioning, and Their Association Following Trauma Exposure

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posted on 2021-05-22, 15:54 authored by Philippe Shnaider
Interpersonal relationship functioning problems have been documented among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although the trajectory of PTSD following traumatization is well understood, there is minimal research examining the trajectory of interpersonal relationship functioning following trauma. It is yet to be determined if interpersonal relationship functioning confers risk/resilience for PTSD, if interpersonal relationship functioning problems are a consequence of PTSD, or if the direction of the association between these constructs changes over time. The current study examined the trajectory of PTSD and interpersonal relationship functioning, following recent trauma exposure, and the effects that these constructs exert on one another over time. Trauma-exposed individuals (N = 107) and their close significant others (e.g., intimate partner, family member, close friend) were recruited from the community. Trauma-exposed individuals completed clinician-administered and self-report measures of PTSD, as well as a self-report measure of interpersonal relationship functioning in reference to their relationship with their close significant other. Four assessments took place at 4-month intervals. PTSD severity declined over time. The trajectory of self-reported, but not clinician-assessed, PTSD was associated with end-state PTSD. Relationship support and depth deteriorated over time. After controlling for trauma type, relationship support and depth worsened over time as end-state PTSD symptom severity improved. Significant associations between initial levels of interpersonal relationship functioning and end-state PTSD were detected, in both bivariate models and in the context of interaction terms. Initial relationship conflict was positively associated with end-state PTSD among participants participating with intimate close others but not those participating with non-intimate close others. There was a negative association between initial relationship support and end-state PTSD among those who experienced non-interpersonal traumas, and a positive association between initial relationship depth and end-state PTSD among those who experienced interpersonal traumas. Findings did not support the hypothesis that the direction of the association between interpersonal relationship functioning and PTSD changes over time. Results can inform early intervention efforts aimed at reducing risk for PTSD following trauma. Brief interpersonally-based interventions, which could be “indicated” based on the type of trauma exposure and whether someone is in an intimate relationship, should be considered and further investigated.





Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Candice M. Monson