Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Link between Lifetime Victimization and Psychological Symptoms: Understanding the Interplay of Coping and Specific Characteristics of Violent Events

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Carolyn Tompsett (Advisor)

Second Advisor

David Jackson (Other)

Third Advisor

Eric Dubow (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Member)


Violence exposure is a serious public health concern, with increased exposure to adverse events associated with an increased risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempts, poor self-rated health, and severe obesity in adulthood (Felitti et al., 1998). Specific characteristics of violence exposure may influence the severity of psychopathology (Higgins & McCabe, 2000), including chronicity of violence, the nature of the victim’s relationship to the perpetrator, and recency of the event. The current study tests how specific characteristics of violence exposure moderate the mediational model of violence exposure leading to a disengagement coping style leading to psychological symptoms. Participants, ages 18 to 22, were recruited from Introductory Psychology courses, Facebook, and online support groups for victims of violence. A total of 368 valid online surveys were collected. The simple mediational model was non-significant for both voluntary disengagement coping strategies and involuntary disengagement reactions. In addition, relationship to the perpetrator, chronicity of violence, and recency of violence did not moderate the mediational model. Implications for research are discussed.