Women's Intimate Partner Violence Experiences and Health and Vocational Outcomes: The Role of Trauma Appraisals
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a public health concern in the United States that puts women at increased risk for negative health and vocational outcomes. Severity and duration of negative outcomes, however, vary widely among trauma survivors, with some women developing more severe, negative outcomes and others developing less severe or fewer negative outcomes, or none at all. The study of cognitive appraisals for trauma, or an individual's assessment of her/his beliefs, feelings, and behaviors after a traumatic event, shows promise for illuminating what, and how, post-trauma outcomes develop for trauma survivors. Few studies have examined cognitive appraisals of trauma in relation to IPV, and none to date have examined them in relation to physical health and vocational outcomes. The purpose of this dissertation study was to use a correlational, descriptive, non-experimental, survey research design to examine whether trauma appraisals mediate the relationships among a broad range of IPV experiences and mental health, physical health, and vocational outcomes for adult women IPV survivors. Participants were a community sample of 158 women who had experienced IPV in adulthood. Participants were recruited from multiple community organizations and completed surveys online or in-person or over-the-phone with the principal investigator. Stepwise linear regressions were used to analyze the mediation models, and linear regressions were performed to examine how specific trauma appraisals predicted physical health and vocational outcomes. Dissertation study findings showed that trauma appraisals significantly and fully mediated the relationship between IPV experiences and mental health outcomes for women, with appraisals of fear, alienation, and anger significantly predicting mental health outcomes. When childhood betrayal trauma was controlled for within this model, however, trauma appraisals only partially mediated the relationship between IPV and trauma-related mental health. A mediation model was not used for physical health and vocational outcomes, but findings revealed that appraisals of self-blame and anger significantly predicted physical health outcomes, and appraisals of anger and shame significantly predicted vocational self-efficacy outcomes. These findings highlight the importance that trauma appraisals play in the development of a broad range of outcomes for IPV survivors. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.