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Psychol Trauma. 2019 Jul 8. doi: 10.1037/tra0000490. [Epub ahead of print]

The moderating effect of psychological flexibility on event centrality in determining trauma outcomes.

Author information

South Central Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (virtual center), Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.
Department of Psychology, Minnesota State University.
Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University.



Emerging research shows that event centrality, or the degree to which trauma is perceived as integral to one's worldviews and personal identity, has a substantial impact on trauma recovery. Given that high centrality fosters both distress and growth, additional research on potential moderators that could better distinguish the course of adjustment is needed. This study examined whether differences in psychological flexibility (or the ability to persist in a behavior despite urges to do otherwise) impacted posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTS) and perceived posttraumatic growth (PTG) as event centrality increased.


One-hundred and 25 college students (52% female) with a history of trauma exposure were recruited from a large Midwestern university. Participants completed an electronic survey for course credit.


There was a significant interaction between event centrality and psychological flexibility on PTS severity (B = 2.10, p = .003). A simple slopes analysis revealed that low psychological flexibility was associated with greater PTS severity as event centrality increased. Although event centrality and psychological flexibility independently predicted perceived PTG, no interaction effect was observed (B = -4.68, p = .080).


This suggests that while differences in psychological flexibility may influence PTS severity following highly centralized traumatic experiences it has a more complicated relationship with perceived PTG that requires further investigation. Clinical implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


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