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Monday, November 9, 2020

Betrayal vs. Nonbetrayal Trauma: Different Effects of Social Support & Emotion Regulation on PTSD Symptom Severity

N. Kline & K.M. Palm Read
Psychological Trauma: 
Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. 


Objective: Betrayal Trauma Theory posits that interpersonal traumas are particularly injurious when the perpetrator is a person that the victim previously trusted and was close to. A relevant protective factor to examine is social support, which may influence PTSD symptomology through its influence on emotion regulation. The aim of the current study was to examine differences in the associations between social support, emotion regulation, and PTSD symptom severity for survivors of betrayal trauma and nonbetrayal trauma. 

Method: Two hundred and 73 trauma survivors (age: M = 25.96 years, SD = 9.42 years; 80.2% female; 63.7% White) completed the anonymous, online survey. Results: Across both groups, emotion regulation mediated the relationship between social support and PTSD symptom severity. A multiple-samples SEM analysis showed that the betrayal group evidenced a weaker relationship between social support and emotion regulation. 

Conclusions: Findings suggest that survivors of high betrayal trauma may not engage with their social support in ways that foster emotion regulation skills. Therefore, for high betrayal trauma survivors specifically, group interventions that involve the survivor and close contact(s), may be particularly beneficial in enhancing emotion regulation and decreasing PTSD symptomology.

Impact Statement

Findings suggest social support may influence the impact of trauma through improving survivors’ ability to regulate emotions. Survivors of betrayal trauma may not seek out social support to the same extent or manner as nonbetrayal trauma survivors, limiting opportunities for beneficial emotional regulation practices and support. Clinicians should consider focusing on how interpersonal processes can facilitate greater understanding, acceptance, and regulation of emotions following betrayal trauma.