The interrelationship between social support and post-trauma symptoms in the aftermath of a severe motor vehicle accident
Miller, Luana Marques
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Data from two recent meta-analyses suggest that lack of social support is strongly associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among military and civilian samples (Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000; Ozer, Best, Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003). Despite this plethora of research documenting the association between lack of social support and trauma symptoms across trauma populations (Andrews, Brewin, & Rose, 2003; Brewin et al., 2000; Holeva, Tarrier, & Wells, 2001; Jovanovic, Aleksandric, Dunjic, & Todorovic, 2004; Ozer et al., 2003), little attention has been devoted to exploring such an association within the interpersonal domain. Thus, the current study had two aims. First, it examined the impact of social support from a romantic partner in the longitudinal prediction of post-trauma symptoms among 103 individuals who had suffered a serious motor vehicle accident (MVA) within the past month. To that end, the present study expanded the literature by testing two opposite models, one in which poor social support from a romantic partner was conceptualized as a risk factor for the development of post-trauma symptoms (i.e., independent variable; risk factor model), and one in which poor social support from a romantic partner functioned as a consequence of the trauma symptoms (e.g., dependent variable; erosion model). Second, the present study examined the role of four plausible moderators (sex, depression, physical pain, and role impairment due to physical problems) of the interrelationship between social support from a romantic partner and trauma symptoms in each of the two competing models. Contrary to the hypothesis, neither the risk factor nor the erosion model received support in the current study. Specifically, in the risk factor model, none of the moderator variables had a significant interaction with social support in the longitudinal prediction of post-trauma symptoms. In addition, there was no main effect of perceived social support from the romantic partner in any of the models examined. Similar results were obtained when the erosion model was tested. Specifically, data suggested that there was no impact of post-trauma symptoms on perceived social support across the several models examined. Furthermore, social support symptoms did not change over time. Findings are interpreted in light of the relationship and trauma literatures and avenues for future research are recommended.