Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Christine Fiore

Commitee Members

Cameo Stanick, Paul Silverman, James Caringi, Rick van den Pol


Attachment, Complex Trauma, Family, PTSD, Resilience, Trauma


University of Montana


Childhood traumatic experiences occurring during critical developmental stages are strongly linked to poor mental health outcomes during adulthood, including PTSD. Yet, individuals who have experienced multiple traumas (and across developmental stages) report a profile of symptoms that is not well-represented by traditional PTSD diagnostic criteria. Recent research suggests that resulting post-traumatic stress after the experience of complex trauma should be considered a separate, yet related, disorder from the well-established PTSD. Since traumatic experiences are commonplace and often detrimental, establishing which factors contribute to risk and resilience is of great importance. Having secure attachment to a primary caregiver and family cohesion are consistently supported in the literature as contributors to resilience. The primary objective of the current research was to contribute to the ongoing development and understanding of complex trauma and the proposed C-PTSD categorization. Additionally, this study evaluated the relationship between experiencing trauma, developing trauma symptomology, and familial factors of (1) a positive family environment in youth and (2) secure attachment. Results provided supportive evidence of a significant relationship between a higher number of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and increased trauma symptomology, specifically PTSD and C-PTSD. A positive family environment and a more secure attachment style were found to be associated with less PTSD and C-PTSD symptomology. This study provides preliminary support and suggests further exploration of factors that may strengthen resilience and protect against trauma-related symptoms would be beneficial.



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