PTSD as meaning violation: Testing a cognitive worldview perspective

Park, Crystal L.; Mills, Mary Alice; Edmondson, Donald E.

The cognitive perspective on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been successful in explaining many PTSD-related phenomena and in developing effective treatments, yet some of its basic assumptions remain surprisingly underexamined. The present study tested 2 of these assumptions: (1) situational appraisals of the event as violating global meaning (i.e., beliefs and goals) is related to PTSD symptomatology, and (2) the effect of situational appraisals of violation on PTSD symptomatology is mediated by global meaning (i.e., views of self and world). We tested these assumptions in a cross-sectional study of 130 college students who had experienced a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., American Psychiatric Association, 1994) level trauma. Structural equation modeling showed that appraisals of the extent to which the trauma violated one's beliefs and goals related fairly strongly to PTSD. In addition, the effects of appraisals of belief and goal violations on PTSD symptoms were fully mediated through negative global beliefs about both the self and the world. These findings support the cognitive worldview perspective, highlighting the importance of the meaning individuals assign to traumatic events, particularly the role of meaning violation.


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Also Published In

Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health
American Psychological Association
Published Here
June 30, 2016