Mediators of the relation between sexual victimization and distress: Comparison to bereavement

Patricia Frazier, Viann N. Nguyen-Feng, Celia Fulco, Samantha L Anders, Sandra Shallcross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: The purposes of this research were (a) to examine relationship quality and neuroticism as mediators of the relation between past sexual victimization and current distress in 2 samples of college students and (b) to examine the specificity of the mediated effects by assessing whether these variables also mediated the relation between the most common potentially traumatic event in both samples (past bereavement) and current distress. This study improved on prior research by using longitudinal data, assessing multiple mediators, assessing specificity of mediated effects, and replicating results across 2 samples. Method: Participants in both studies were undergraduate students in psychology courses (Ns = 1,528 and 1,084, respectively). In both studies, sexual victimization, bereavement and the 2 mediators (relationship quality and neuroticism) were assessed at baseline, and distress was assessed at baseline and 2 months later using standard measures. Results: Structural equation modeling was used to assess the indirect (mediated) effects of sexual victimization and bereavement on later distress through relationship quality and neuroticism, controlling for baseline distress. In Study 1, the indirect effects of sexual victimization on distress through relationship quality and neuroticism were both significant. In Study 2, only the indirect effects through neuroticism were significant. None of the indirect effects were significant for bereavement, suggesting that the mediators were specific to sexual victimization. Conclusions: Neuroticism was a consistent mediator of the relation between lifetime sexual victimization and current distress, suggesting that it may be an important target of intervention for those with a history of sexual victimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-104
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Distress
  • Longitudinal mediation
  • Sexual victimization


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