Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Maria van Tilburg

Abstract

Vicarious trauma can impact anyone working with a traumatized person. The constructivist self-development theory asserts that vicarious trauma can negatively distort how the helper thinks about the world and can cause increased stress. Researchers have explored stress and coping models and have studied how increased stress can negatively impact coping and health behaviors. However, researchers have not explored how vicarious trauma, coping, and health behaviors are related. The purpose of this correlational study was to examine the relationships among vicarious trauma, health behaviors (healthy eating, physical activity, cigarette smoking, and risky drinking), and maladaptive coping. The study sample consisted of 102 Texas Childrenâ??s Advocacy Center (TX CAC) and Texas Child Protective Services (TX CPS) employees with direct exposure to a clientâ??s trauma. Participants completed a self-administered online survey designed to measure vicarious trauma, health behaviors, and maladaptive coping. Linear and logistic regression analyses indicated vicarious trauma was significantly related to healthy eating and maladaptive coping. Maladaptive coping was significantly related to physical activity. However, maladaptive coping was not a significant mediating factor in the relationship between vicarious trauma and health behavior. The data indicated TX CPS and TX CAC employees continue to experience cognitive distortions associated with vicarious trauma, have some decreased health behaviors, and are using maladaptive coping strategies. Results of the study may be used to reduce the risk of vicarious trauma to TX CAC and TX CPS employees so they can continue to help children and families heal from trauma.

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