Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Stephanie Felgoise, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Beverly White, PsyD

Second Advisor

David Festinger, PhD

Third Advisor

Michael Roberts, PsyD


Most people experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes, yet only a small proportion of individuals develop posttraumatic stress disorder. Many studies have examined risk factors associated with psychopathological symptoms in individuals with trauma, but few have examined protective factors associated with posttraumatic growth, and even fewer have examined risk and protective factors concurrently. Factors that contribute to discrepancies between individuals who experience pathology and those who experience growth are unclear Recent studies suggest that mild stressful life events in childhood may impact the way in which an individual experiences later stress via a strengthening or “steeling” effect. In a sample of 523 individuals who endorsed direct traumatic exposure, risk factors (i.e., number of traumas, heightened arousal, and number of previous pathological diagnoses) and protective factors (i.e., optimism, cognitive flexibility, and social support) significantly predicted pathology, as evidenced by total scores on the Brief Symptom Inventory. In a separate regression model, protective and risk factors significantly predicted growth, as evidenced by scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, but the effect size was small. A Pearson product-moment correlation revealed a negative relationship between the number of protective factors and pathology and a positive relationship between the number of protective factors and growth. However, growth was not significantly correlated with pathology. Individuals who endorsed low, moderate, and high posttraumatic growth did not significantly differ on the number of stressful life events endorsed on the Life Events List. While risk and protective factors appear to predict negative outcomes, this study suggested that the processes by which individuals demonstrate growth or pathology may be independent.