Date of Graduation

8-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Ana J. Bridges

Committee Member

Timothy Cavell

Second Committee Member

Ellen Leen-Feldner

Keywords

caregiving, emotion identification, emotion interpretation, parenting meta-emotion philosophies, PTSD treatment

Abstract

Approximately 20% of women are sexually victimized and incarcerated women’s rates of victimization are much higher. In addition, women have a higher rate of PTSD and trauma-related sequelae than men. Interpersonal trauma experiences can have a negative impact on emotional processes such as alexithymia, recognizing others’ emotions, and healthy beliefs about emotional experiences. These difficulties are associated with problematic parenting. However, the mediational processes by which PTSD and disruptive emotional processes affect parenting is unclear. The current study examines the associations among PTSD, alexithymia, negative beliefs about emotions, emotion recognition in children, and parenting meta-emotion philosophies in incarcerated women presenting for exposure-based group psychotherapy for sexual violence victimization. Women (N = 93) were incarcerated for a minimum of 3 months and were serving a maximum sentence of 2 years for non-violent offenses. All women had at least one child at some point during their lifetime and over half of the sample had PTSD symptoms above the cut-point for a probable PTSD diagnosis. Analyses indicate that PTSD was associated with alexithymia and negative beliefs about emotions pre-treatment, but was not associated with parenting meta-emotion philosophies. After treatment, there were significant reductions in PTSD, alexithymia, negative beliefs about emotions, and dismissing parenting meta-emotion philosophies. Findings suggest exposure-based group psychotherapy can be effective at reducing PTSD, disruptive emotional processes, and negative parenting philosophies, but may not increase positive parenting philosophies. Continued research on emotional processes related to sexual victimization will help elucidate the mediational processes related to parenting difficulties related to interpersonal trauma, and will help inform evidenced-based principles of change.

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