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J Trauma Stress. 2012 Aug;25(4):469-74. doi: 10.1002/jts.21718. Epub 2012 Jul 13.

Trajectories of PTSD symptoms following sexual assault: is resilience the modal outcome?

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Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.


Theoretical frameworks positing qualitatively distinct trajectories of posttrauma outcome have received initial empirical support, but have not been investigated in cases of severe interpersonal trauma. To address this limitation, we conducted latent class growth analysis with longitudinal data collected from 119 female sexual assault survivors at 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-months postassault. Participants' mean age was 33 years; 63% were White. We hypothesized that given the severity of exposure associated with sexual assault, resilience would not be the modal course of adaptation. Four distinct PTSD growth trajectories, representing unique latent classes of participants, best fit the data: a high chronic trajectory, a moderate chronic trajectory, a moderate recovery trajectory, and a marked recovery trajectory. Contrary to previous studies and recent theoretical models, resilience and resistance trajectories were not observed, as high levels of distress were evident in nearly all participants at 1-month postassault. These results suggest that theoretical models of posttrauma response positing resilience as the modal outcome may not generalize to cases of sexual assault.

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