Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-16-2017


Previous research has established links between traumatic experiences and externalizing pathology including substance use and antisocial behavior, but little is known about potential mechanisms linking these phenomena. This study proposed a novel conceptual model linking these phenomena via the cognitive mechanism of negative world assumptions, or beliefs about the inherent dangerousness and unpredictability of life and others. Given previous mixed findings, this study also sought to explore potential interactions between gender and these phenomena. It was hypothesized that, within a sample of adults seeking alcohol treatment, world assumptions would mediate and gender would moderate the trauma-antisociality association. It also was hypothesized that trauma, world assumptions, and antisociality each would be associated with percent days abstinent (PDA) at baseline (BL), the end of treatment (EOT), and 12 months post-treatment (12MPT). A secondary analysis was performed with Project MATCH data (N = 1,726) using an iterative latent variable modeling process. Latent variables representing trauma history, world assumptions, and antisociality were constructed with resulting good model fit. World assumptions mediated the trauma-antisociality association, but gender did not moderate the association. World assumptions (but not trauma or antisociality) were related to PDA at BL and EOT but not at 12MPT. Post hoc analyses revealed that world assumptions mediated the association between trauma and PDA at EOT. The results provide preliminary evidence of the potential utility of world assumptions as a treatment target for individuals with comorbid trauma and externalizing pathology. Future research should clarify the longitudinal trajectories of trauma, world assumptions, and externalizing disorders.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Barbara S. McCrady, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth A. Yeater, Ph.D.




Project MATCH, alcohol, antisocial behavior, trauma, world assumptions, gender

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