Psychology, Department of


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Objectives: The current study investigates the moderating effect of perceived social support on asso-ciations between child maltreatment severity and adult trauma symptoms. We extend the existing literature by examining the roles of severity of multiple maltreatment types (i.e., sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; physical and emotional neglect) and gender in this process. Methods: The sam-ple included 372 newlywed individuals recruited from marriage license records. Participants com-pleted a number of self-report questionnaires measuring the nature and severity of child maltreat-ment history, perceived social support from friends and family, and trauma-related symptoms. These questionnaires were part of a larger study that investigated marital and intrapersonal func-tioning. We conducted separate, two-step hierarchical multiple regression models for perceived so-cial support from family and perceived social support from friends. In each of these models, total trauma symptomatology was predicted from each child maltreatment severity variable, perceived social support, and the product of the two variables. In order to examine the role of gender, we con-ducted separate analyses for women and men. Results: As hypothesized, increased severity of several maltreatment types (sexual abuse, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect) pre-dicted greater trauma symptoms for both women and men, and increased physical abuse severity predicted greater trauma symptoms for women. Perceived social support from both family and friends predicted lower trauma symptoms across all levels of maltreatment for men. For women, greater perceived social support from friends, but not from family, predicted decreased trauma symptoms. Finally, among women, perceived social support from family interacted with child maltreatment such that as the severity of maltreatment (physical and emotional abuse, emotional ne-glect) increased, the buffering effect of perceived social support from family on trauma symptoms diminished. Conclusions: The results of the current study shed new light on the potential for social support to shield individuals against long-term trauma symptoms and suggest the importance of strengthening perceptions of available social support when working with adult survivors of child maltreatment.

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