Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Ellen Leen-Feldner

Committee Member

Matthew Feldner

Second Committee Member

Nathan Parks

Abstract

Extensive research suggests script-driven imagery procedures employed with traumatic event-exposed adults produce reliable reactions that map onto contemporary models of posttraumatic stress, including increased physiological (Carson et al., 2000; Orr et al., 1998; Ramón et al., 2006) and negative affective (Pitman et al., 1987) responses to trauma scripts. Therefore, such procedures can be utilized in a controlled, laboratory-based setting, supporting mechanism-oriented research designed to better understand the nature, correlates, and consequences of traumatization and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Unfortunately, only one study has begun to evaluate the validity of script-driven imagery procedures for use with youth, making further investigation of this important methodology crucial for developmental psychopathologists seeking to use script-driven imagery procedures among youth. The current study examined responding to script-driven imagery in relation to PTSS within a sample of 60 traumatic event-exposed adolescents, ages 10 to 17 years. Results showed that PTSS predicted self-reported fear, disgust, and distress responses to the script, as well as re-experiencing and dissociation symptoms elicited. However, PTSS did not predict self-reported anxiety, avoidance or total PTSD symptoms elicited by the script, or any physiological variables, including heart rate, facial EMG, or skin conductance. As expected, adolescents’ self-reported thought problems did not predict any affective, physiological, or PTSD symptom outcomes in response to the script-driven imagery procedure, suggesting a degree of divergent validity for PTSS as a predictor. Unexpectedly, there were no significant effects of gender on any affective, physiological, or PTSD symptom outcomes. Implications will be discussed in terms of the developmental stage of adolescence, the differences in using script-driven imagery with youth compared to adults, and the importance of this new methodology for youth PTSD research.

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