Advertisement

Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 403–411 | Cite as

Optimism as a Mediator Between the Experience of Child Abuse, Other Traumatic Events, and Distress

  • Alison Brodhagen
  • Deborah Wise
Original Article

Abstract

In this study, we examined the role of dispositional optimism in mediating distress among students who experienced traumatic events, including child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Participants included 199 undergraduate and graduate students (aged 18–63 years) from a private university in Oregon. In this study, dispositional optimism partially mediated distress among individuals who had experienced child physical abuse and child emotional abuse; participants with higher levels of optimism had lower levels of distress. In addition, dispositional optimism fully mediated distress among individuals who had experienced traumatic events such as rape, assault, and fire; participants with higher levels of optimism had lower levels of distress. Contrary to prediction, the experience of child sexual abuse was not associated with distress. Clinical implications of these results are addressed.

Keywords

Dispositional optimism Child abuse Traumatic events Distress 

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Aspinwall, L. G., & Taylor, S. E. (1992). Modeling cognitive adaptation: A longitudinal investigation of the impact of individual differences and coping on college adjustment and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 989–1003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, J. S. (1995). Cognitive therapy. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  5. Bernstein, D. P., & Fink, L. (1998). Childhood trauma questionnaire manual. San Antonio: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  6. Bolger, K. E., & Patterson, C. J. (2003). Sequelae of child maltreatment: Vulnerability and resilience. In S. S. Luthar (Ed.), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities (pp. 156–181). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Briere, J., & Runtz, M. (1988). Multivariate correlates of childhood psychological and physical maltreatment among university women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 12, 331–341.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, A., & Finkelhor, D. (1986). Impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the research. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 66–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, E. J., & Kolko, D. J. (1999). Child victims’ attributions about being physically abused: An examination of factors associated with symptom severity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 311–322.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bunce, S. C., Larsen, R. J., & Peterson, C. (1995). Life after trauma: Personality and daily life experiences of traumatized people. Journal of Personality, 63, 165–188.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burlingame, G. M., Lambert, M. J., Reisinger, C. W., Neff, W. M., & Mosier, J. (1995). Pragmatics of tracking mental health outcomes in a managed care setting. The Journal of Mental Health Administration, 22, 226–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carver, C. S., & Gaines, J. G. (1987). Optimism, pessimism, and postpartum depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 11, 449–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carver, C. S., Pozo, C., Harris, S. D., Noriega, V., Scheier, M. F., Robinson, D. S., et al. (1993). How coping mediates the effect of optimism on distress: A study of women with early stage breast cancer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 375–390.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2002). Optimism, pessimism, and self-regulation. In E. C. Chang (Ed.), Optimism and pessimism: Implications for theory, research, and practice (pp. 31–51). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). New York: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  17. Cozzarelli, C. (1993). Personality and self-efficacy as predictors of coping with abortion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1224–1236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Egeland, B., Carlson, E., & Sroufe, L. A. (1993). Resilience as process. Development & Psychopathology, 5, 517–528.Google Scholar
  19. Egeland, B., Sroufe, L. A., & Erickson, M. A. (1983). The developmental consequence of different patterns of maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7, 459–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Finkelhor, D. (1998). A comparison of the responses of preadolescents and adolescents in a national victimization survey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13(3), 362–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fivush, R. (1993). Developmental perspectives on autobiographical recall. In G. S. Goodman & B. L. Bottoms (Eds.), Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony (pp. 1–24). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  22. Gray, M. J., Litz, B. T., Wang, J., & Lombardo, T. W. (2004). Psychometric properties of the Life Events Checklist. Assessment, 11, 330–341.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C. A. (1995). Mind over mood. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  24. Heller, S. S., Larrieu, J. A., D’Imperio, R., & Boris, N. W. (1999). Research on resilience to child maltreatment: Empirical considerations. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 321–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Herrenkohl, R. C., Egolf, B. P., & Herrenkohl, E. C. (1997). Preschool antecedents of adolescent assaultive behavior: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 67, 422–432.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ironson, G., Balbin, E., Stuetzle, R., Fletcher, M. A., O’Cleirigh, C., Laurenceau, J. P., et al. (2005). Dispositional optimism and the mechanisms by which it predicts slower disease progression in HIV: Proactive behavior, avoidant coping, and depression. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12, 86–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kendall-Tackett, K. A., & Simon, A. F. (1988). Molestation and the onset of puberty: Data from 365 adults molested as children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 12, 73–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kendall-Tackett, K. A., Williams, L. M., & Finkelhor, D. (1993). Impact of sexual abuse On children: A review and synthesis of recent empirical studies. Psychological Bulletin, 113(1), 164–180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kessler, R. C., Sonnega, A., & Bromet, E. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the national comorbidity survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048–1060.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Lambert, M. J., Burlingame, G. M., Umphress, V., Hansen, N. B., Yancher, S. C., Vermeersch, D., et al. (1996a). The reliability and validity of a new psychotherapy outcome questionnaire. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 3(4), 249–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lambert, M. J., Hansen, N. B., Umphress, V., Lunnen, K., Okiishi, J., Burlingame, G., et al. (1996b). Administration and scoring manual for the OUTCOME QUESTIONNAIRE (OQ-45.2). Wilmington, DL: American Professional Credentialing Services.Google Scholar
  32. Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71(3), 543–562.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McGee, R. A., Wolfe, D. A., & Wilson, S. K. (1997). Multiple maltreatment experiences and adolescents’ behavior problems: Adolescent perspectives. Development & Psychopathology, 9, 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Medrano, M. A., Hatch, J. P., Zule, W. A., & Desmond, D. P. (2003). Childhood trauma and adult prostitution behavior in a multiethnic heterosexual drug-using population. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 29, 463–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ozer, E. J., Best, S. R., Lipsey, T. L., & Weiss, D. S. (2003). Predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in adults: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 52–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Paivio, S. C. (2001). Stability of retrospective self-reports of child abuse and neglect before and after therapy for child abuse issues. Child Abuse & Neglect, 25, 1053–1068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1987). Dispositional optimism and physical well-being: The influence of generalized outcome expectancies on health. Journal of Personality, 55, 169–210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1988). A model of behavioral self-regulation: Translating intention into action. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology, 21 (pp. 303–346). New York: Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1993). On the power of positive thinking: The benefits of being optimistic. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2, 26–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self master, and self-esteem): A reevaluation of the Life Orientation Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1063–1078.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scheier, M. F., Matthews, K. A., Owen, J. F., Magovern, G. J., Lefebvre, R. C., Abbott, R. A., et al. (1989). Dispositional optimism and recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery: The beneficial effects on physical and psychological well-being. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1024–1040.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Scheier, M. F., Weintraub, J. K., & Carver, C. S. (1986). Coping with stress: Divergent strategies of optimists and pessimists. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1257–1264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schou, I., Ekeberg, O., Sandvik, L., Hjermstad, M. J., & Ruland, C. M. (2005). Multiple predictors, of health-related quality of life in early stage breast cancer. Data from a year follow-up study compared with the general population. Quality of Life Research: An International Journal of Quality of Life Aspects of Treatment, Care, & Rehabilitation, 14(8), 1813–1823.Google Scholar
  44. Seligman, M. E. P. (1990). Learned optimism. New York: Pocket Books.Google Scholar
  45. Solomon, Z., Mikulincer, M., & Avitzur, E. (1988). Coping, locus of control, social support, and combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder: A prospective study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 279–285.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Spaccarelli, S. (1994). Stress, appraisal, and coping in child sexual abuse: A theoretical and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 340–362.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Toth, S. L., Manly, J. T., & Cicchetti, D. (1992). Child maltreatment and vulnerability to depression. Development & Psychopathology, 4, 97–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Updegraff, J. A., & Marshall, G. N. (2005). Predictors of perceived growth following direct exposure to community violence. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 24, 538–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. U.S. Census Bureau (2003). Statistical abstract of the United States: 2003. Retrieved June 14, 2004 from http://www.census.gov/statab.
  50. US Department of Health and Human Services (2004). Child maltreatment. Retrieved June 23, 2004 from http://naccchildlaw.org/childrenlaw/childmaltreatment.html.
  51. Yang, B., & Clam, G. A. (1996). Effects of early negative life experiences on cognitive functioning and risk for suicide: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 16, 177–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zeidner, M., & Hammer, A. L. (1992). Coping with missile attack: Resources, strategies, and outcomes. Journal of Personality, 60, 709–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Professional PsychologyPacific UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.YalesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations