This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Coping Mechanisms Moderate the Association between Stressful Life Experiences and Sub-Threshold PTSD Symptoms in College Students




Veal, Kelly

Type of Degree



Counseling Psychology


Abstract The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not stressful life events cause sub-threshold or full Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in college populations, and whether or not that relationship is moderated by approach or avoidance-based coping mechanisms. Research indicates that stressful life events, that are not considered traumatic in the DSM V, can cause sub-threshold and even full PTSD symptomology (Mol et al., 2005, Gold et al., 2004; Robinson & Larson, 2010; Smyth et al., 2008; Mulder, Ferguson & Horwood, 2013; Liu et al., 2014). Furthermore, approach-based coping mechanisms have been found to reduce PTSD symptomology (Brailey et al., 2007; Lukaschek et al., 2013; Sharansky et al., 2000). The participants for this study consisted of 124 undergraduate students in a large Southeastern university system. The data indicated that stressful life events do impact sub-threshold symptomology in college populations. Approach and avoidance based coping mechanisms were not found to moderate the relationship between stressful life events and sub-threshold symptomology. However, both coping mechanisms and stressful life events were predictors of sub-threshold symptomology. Furthermore, trends suggested there is an interaction occurring with approach versus avoidance suggesting an increase in symptomology with avoidance based coping and a decrease in symptoms with approach based coping. Therefore, research needs to be continued in order to study the impact of various coping mechanisms on sub-threshold PTSD symptomology.