Research Topic

Post-Traumatic Stress in the Family

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About this Research Topic

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common chronic psychiatric disorder resulting from exposure to traumatic stress. It is characterized by symptoms of hyperarousal, re-experiencing of the traumatic event, cognitive and behavioral avoidance, and negative mood and cognitions. Depression, anxiety, and ...

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common chronic psychiatric disorder resulting from exposure to traumatic stress. It is characterized by symptoms of hyperarousal, re-experiencing of the traumatic event, cognitive and behavioral avoidance, and negative mood and cognitions. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are also prevalent following traumatic exposure. While the vast majority of research focuses on those directly exposed to trauma it has by now been well-established that traumatic events may also have a significant effect on the family system. Our Research Topic will include original research examining the relationship between trauma exposure and mental health issues within the family, such as:

(1) Secondary traumatization and its psychological correlates.
Secondary traumatization refers to post-traumatic symptoms developed by family members who are vicariously exposed to another member’s traumatic experience. Under this Research Topic, we welcome papers assessing post-traumatic distress among family members following various types of trauma. Studies included in this Research Topic would examine the determinants of secondary post-traumatic symptoms, including variables from the personality, social, cognitive, and biological fields.

(2) Family environment and its role in post-traumatic vulnerability and resilience.
Over the years, theorists and researchers have identified various dimensions of family life, which may increase or decrease a family's ability to cope with traumatic stress. These include, for example, family members' emotional expressiveness, conflict management, and sense of cohesiveness. We welcome research attempting to identify novel familial factors that may contribute to a family's resilience or vulnerability following exposure to trauma.

(3) The nature and quality of spousal relationships, and post-traumatic stress.
Papers focusing on the relationship characteristics as a risk or protective factor to traumatic stress are welcome in our Research Topic. Much of the literature on trauma and the family has focused on trauma's effects on the marital dyad, as well as on spousal factors affecting both partners' reactions to trauma. We would encourage researchers to submit papers assessing issues such as dyadic coping with trauma (using methods such as Actor-Participant Interdependence Models), and trauma's effects on spousal well-being, adjustment, and functioning.

(4) Family narratives and social remembering for traumatic events.
Trauma exposure often entails the formation of a certain narrative (e.g., What happened to me? What kind of survivor am I?). Our Research Topic would include studies examining post-traumatic narratives at the family level. Questions examined would include – do different family members form different/similar post-traumatic narratives? What are the psychological factors facilitating or inhibiting the formation of shared narratives? How do family members discuss trauma and does this relate to mental health outcomes? Similarly, we encourage papers exploring shared and differential post-traumatic memories among family members, assessing the same questions via cognitive tasks, methods, and paradigms (e.g., autobiographical memory, discourse analysis).

(5) Trauma-focused family and couples therapy.
While individual trauma-focused psychotherapies have gained significant empirical support over the years, much less in known about the effectiveness of existing couples and family therapy. Thus, we welcome intervention studies, hoping that their results would contribute to the development and dissemination of novel interventions.


Keywords: PTSD, Trauma, Family, Spouses, Secondary Traumatization


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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