Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Natural disasters are sudden, large-scale events that are associated with significant mental health consequences. Although, most individuals demonstrate resilience, a significant subset of the population develops significant long-term distress (La Greca et al. 2013; Lai, et al., 2015; Lowe & Rhodes 2013; Self-Brown et al., 2014). Moreover, results from emerging longitudinal research suggests that symptom patterns are heterogenous. For example, some individuals recover over time or demonstrate a delayed onset. The most commonly studied post-disaster reaction in adults is posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. However, the extant literature examining elevated PTS symptoms and related risk factors in disaster research has relied largely on cross-sectional post-hoc designs, with few studies examining PTS symptom trajectories from a longitudinal perspective. The current study sought to build upon post-disaster recovery theory, by examining PTS trajectories in a diverse sample of primarily low-income mothers impacted by Hurricane Katrina, as well as identifying predictor variables (i.e., prior trauma, hurricane exposure, coping behavior, social support, and family functioning) associated with specific symptom trajectories. Data was collected over two years following the Hurricane Katrina (2005-2007). Utilizing Latent Class Growth Analysis, results revealed that a three-trajectory model (i.e., recovering, chronic, and resilient) best fit the data. Significant risk and protective factors differentiating trajectory membership included prior trauma, hurricane-related loss and disruption, social support, and children’s internalizing symptoms. Implications of study findings and directions for future research are discussed.



Committee Chair

Kelley, Mary Lou