Resilience in torture survivors: The moderating effect of coping style on social support, cognitive appraisals, and social comparisons

Joshua B Hooberman, Fordham University


It is estimated that torture occurs in over two thirds of countries in the world. Torture includes a variety of trauma types, both physical and psychological in nature, including beating, burning, sexual abusetharassment, humiliation, and death threats, among others. The ramifications can be debilitating, leading to physical symptoms as well as psychological distress. Research with torture survivors has estimated prevalence rates of 14% to 38% for developing PTSD, 14% to 67% for depression, and 17% to 60% for anxiety. This variability in distress may be due in part to multiple risk and resilience factors, which either increase or decrease the likelihood of experiencing distress. The current study sought to investigate the effect of several potential resilience variables (e.g., coping style, social support, cognitive appraisals, and social comparisons) on PTSD, depression, anxiety, and somatization. Furthermore, this study examined whether coping style moderated the relationship between other resilience variables and psychological symptoms. Variables were measured using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire, Brief Symptom Inventory, Coping Strategies Inventory, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Self Evaluation Scale, and an appraisal measure. Seventy-five torture survivors completed a semi-structured intake interview and completed the above measures at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture. The majority of participants were West African (50%) and Asian (20%). Results indicated that emotion focused disengagement coping styles and downward social comparisons predicted psychological symptoms. Results did not support hypotheses that social support and cognitive appraisal would buffer distress on their own. However, results indicated that coping style was a significant moderator, as social support was a significant resilience variable if an individual had an emotion focused engaged coping style. Furthermore, emotion focused coping styles moderated some effects of comparisons and appraisals on psychological symptoms. These results indicate that there are several types of coping and resilience variables, and that some variables are more or less effective depending on certain personality characteristics (e.g., coping style). This may help guide evaluation procedures and interventions in a clinical setting. Limitations include cultural and language differences, small sample size, and reliability on one scale.

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Recommended Citation

Hooberman, Joshua B, "Resilience in torture survivors: The moderating effect of coping style on social support, cognitive appraisals, and social comparisons" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3286421.