Date of Award

8-6-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

William Meil, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David LaPorte, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Pearl Berman, Ph.D.

Abstract

Neuropsychological impairments related to explicit memory, working memory, and executive functioning (response inhibition, cognitive flexibility, attention) have been established within the literature as a consequence of exposure to chronic stress or trauma. Increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, perceived stress, posttraumatic stress, and psychosis have also been noted as a function of the cumulative effect of stress and trauma. The current study evaluated the effects of both potentially traumatic and stressful life events upon neuropsychological and psychological functioning using a sample of 129 undergraduate college students. The current study utilized the Life Events Survey, Stressful Life Events Questionnaire, and the Perceived Stress Scale to determine previous exposure to stress and trauma, as well as current levels of stress. The Trail Making Test, Wisconsin Card Sort Test, N-back test, and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test were utilized to measure neuropsychological functioning. To determine levels of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptomology, the Beck Depression Inventory, Second Edition, State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Impact of Event Scale-Revised were administered, respectively. Results indicate that, consistent with past literature, college students experiencing increased traumatic and life stressors had increased symptoms of depression, perceived stress, trait anxiety, and posttraumatic stress. Interpersonal types of trauma were associated with increased psychological difficulties compared to no trauma controls, but non-interpersonal types of trauma were not different from controls. PTSD symptoms were associated with increased perceived stress and trait anxiety, above and beyond trauma exposure alone. Frequency and duration of trauma partially mediated the effect of numbers of events experienced on PTSD symptoms. Neuropsychological functioning, however, did not differ according to the number of traumatic or stressful experiences reported, type of trauma, level of distress, or frequency and duration of trauma. These results may suggest that the neurocognitive functioning of college students may be resilient to the damaging effects of stress and trauma.

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