The Role of Social Support Seeking and Social Constraints on Psychological Outcomes After Trauma: A Social Cognitive Theory Perspective.
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Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) posits that survivors of a traumatic event have the ability to influence their own outcomes and do so most aptly when they perceive they can exert control over their outcomes. Posttraumatic growth outcomes are associated with a greater perception of controllability, while posttraumatic stress outcomes can be related to the lack of perceived control. In the context of the Virginia Tech shootings, several social factors were examined three months after the trauma (T1) and one year later (T2) to further explore the dynamic interplay between these factors and psychological outcomes. Social support seeking was conceptualized as both a coping strategy (situational) and as a coping style (dispositional) and was hypothesized to predict greater growth outcomes, while social constraints were hypothesized to predict higher levels of posttraumatic stress outcomes. These variables were also examined as moderators of the relationship between perceived threat and psychological outcomes at both time points. As expected, dispositional social support seeking was negatively related to posttraumatic stress at T1, and positively related to posttraumatic growth at T1 and T2. Social constraints were positively related to posttraumatic stress at T1 and negatively related to posttraumatic growth at T1 and T2. Situational social support seeking served as a moderator for the relationship between perceived threat and posttraumatic stress at T1. Lower levels of situational social support seeking lessened the relationship between perceived threat and posttraumatic stress, while high levels of situational social support seeking exacerbated this relationship.
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