Presentations authored or co-authored by members of the Freyd Dynamics Lab at the

2004 Annual Meeting of the
American Psychological Association


Posters & Presentations APA 2004

Freyd, J.J., Klest, B., & Allard, C.B. Physical Health, Psychological Distress, and Betrayal Trauma. Poster to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, 28 July - 1 August, 2004.

Becker-Blease, K.A., & Freyd, J.J. Why not ask about abuse? Beliefs that hold researchers back. Presentation accepted for the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, 28 July - 1 August, 2004.

DePrince, A.P., & Freyd, J.J. Harmful Taboo? Fear of Harm in Asking about Trauma History. Presentation accepted for the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, 28 July - 1 August, 2004.

Freyd, J.J. & Becker-Blease, K.A. Context for Enhancing Learning about Trauma and Oppression. Presentation accepted for the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, 28 July - 1 August, 2004.

Allard, C.B., Freyd, J.J., & Momiyama, T. Exploring the Potential of Pennebaker's Writing Paradigm on Betrayal Trauma Sequelae. Poster to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, 28 July - 1 August, 2004.

Authors and Co-authors:

Abstracts & Handouts

image: Jennifer Freyd

Physical Health, Psychological Distress, and Betrayal Trauma.

Freyd, J.J., Klest, B., & Allard, C.B.
Full Poster: ( 5.3 MB)
Photo of Carolyn Allard next to poster hanging at APA in Hawaii

Numerous studies have revealed an association between trauma and adverse physical and mental health status. While the relation is well established, the mechanisms underlying this link are less well understood. In the current study we sought to distinguish impact on health arising from types of trauma as indicated by betrayal trauma theory (Freyd 1996, 2001), with an eye toward eventually uncovering mechanisms and developing interventions. Betrayal trauma theory distinguishes two dimensions as primary for events that cause long lasting harm to people: life-threat (e.g. major car accident; urban violence) and social betrayal (e.g. abuse by a close other). We recruited 99 community adults who reported at least 12 months of chronic medical or pain problems for a longitudinal intervention study. Participants were assessed for trauma history and physical and mental symptoms. Trauma assessment included measuring exposure to both traumas high in betrayal and traumas low in betrayal (but high in life-threat). Associations between overall trauma exposure and negative health and mental status were found. High betrayal was particularly potent. For instance, exposure to traumas with high betrayal is significantly correlated with number of physical illness symptoms (r=.37), anxiety symptoms (r = .49), and depression symptoms (r=.45). Multiple regression analyses predicting these symptoms from betrayal trauma exposure reveal that adding exposure to trauma with less betrayal into the model changes R-square statistics very little, and these changes are not significant. This pattern of results has been replicated with data recently collected in our laboratory using a different population. In addition, interesting gender effects are emerging. With the large amount of variance in symptoms predicted by exposure to high betrayal trauma, we are focusing on uncovering mechanisms and evaluating the health consequences of an intervention that involves writing about reactions to these events.


Why not ask about abuse? Beliefs that hold researchers back.

Becker-Blease, K.A., & Freyd, J.J.
Presentation Handout:
For related manuscript (Becker Blease, K.A. & Freyd, J.J. (under review) Research participants telling the truth about their lives: the ethics of asking and not asking about abuse, contact )

Abuse survivors are silenced in gendered ways (men cannot show weakness, women are not supported in holding abusers responsible). At the same time researchers are often reluctant to ask about abuse. We address common beliefs about abuse research and present data on harm resulting from not asking about abuse. Belief-1: Asking about abuse requires reporting. We summarize research on ways to assess abuse ethically without reporting. Belief-2: Reporting means losing participants. We summarize ways to report abuse that retain and empower participants. Belief-3: Asking exposes participants to upsetting stimuli, beyond everyday life. We review literature indicating that sensory experiences are more likely triggers than survey questions. Belief-4: Asking causes harm. We contrast distress with harm while emphasizing the role of the abuser in causing harm. Belief-5: Abuse survivors are emotionally unstable. Rather than viewing survivors as overly fragile, we emphasize survivors' strengths while describing supportive debriefing. Belief-6: Asking has no benefits to participants. We review research documenting the benefits survivors see to abuse-focused research. Belief-7: There are no costs to NOT asking. Avoiding asking harms participants, science and society. Science is at risk when we fail to include abuse in statistical models to account for phenomena related to abuse. We present data on correlations between abuse, demographics, and mental health in a community sample of 80 preschool children to demonstrate this point. Correlations with abuse are: Female sex: 0.36; 2-parent family: -0.40; married parents: -0.28; household income: -0.34; parent's education: -0.30; internalizing symptoms: 0.30; externalizing symptoms: 0.27 (p < 0.05). Relations between abuse and internalizing and externalizing symptoms remain significant after controlling for the other factors (0.32 and 0.36 respectively). Researchers studying internalizing, externalizing, or any phenomena related to these demographic factors may be missing important information if abuse history is omitted.


Harmful Taboo? Fear of Harm in Asking about Trauma History

DePrince, A.P., & Freyd, J.J.
Presentation Handout:

Institutional Review Boards and other entities continue to raise concerns about potential harm to participants of asking about trauma history. This reflects a pervasive assumption that asking about trauma history - particularly interpersonal trauma perpetrated by a trusted other - causes harm. Given this assumption, researchers risk failing to gather information critical to women's experiences. Data consistently reveal that females report more instances of victimization at the hands of a trusted other than males, yet this is precisely the topic that many entities argue should not be queried for fear of harming the participant. We will argue that there is harm in neglecting to ask these questions that may help explain important and consistent differences between men and women's mental health. To evaluate the cost-benefit ratio in both undergraduate and community samples, we asked over 500 participants to respond to three questions on their experience of completing a 12 item behaviorally defined self-report trauma measure. The response questions were designed to tap (1) participants' perceptions of whether the trauma history questions were more or less distressing than things encountered in day-to-day life, (2) how important participants believe it is for psychologists to ask about these types of events, and (3) how good of an idea, according to participants, it is to include such a measure in psychology research. Our data indicate that participants find on average questions about trauma are neutral compared to day-to-day experiences. Further, participants rate research asking about stressful life events as more than "somewhat important" on average. Finally, taking into account their experience of answering the questions and how important it is to ask such questions, on average participants indicate that including such measures is more than "somewhat good". Implications of these results, as well as the potential harm of excluding measures of trauma, will be discussed.


Context for Enhancing Learning about Trauma and Oppression.

Freyd, J.J. & Becker-Blease, K.A.
Presentation Handout:

Courses addressing gender, oppression, trauma, and/or violence may inspire students to make powerful emotional connections with the intellectual material. Connections include reminders of personal suffering from oppression or abuse and discovery of the suffering of others. Emotional connection with academic content comes with both risk of distress and the potential to enrich learning and intellectual development. The classroom reality is situated in a larger culture of silence regarding explicit discussion of personal victimization. Indeed, students may experience a class on oppression or trauma as the first time they have permission to speak about these important matters. The culture of silence may relate to the pervasive belief that permitting trauma victims to discuss their experiences will cause psychological harm. This belief manifests in restrictions on research and an avoidance of the topic in almost all contexts including graduate training. However, research indicates that while talking about trauma and abuse is not generally harmful per se (and can be beneficial), social context and particularly response to disclosures of trauma and abuse can be either deeply helpful or deeply harmful. We must therefore attend to context and response. This presentation will combine research findings, and insights gained through the presenter's experience running a trauma research laboratory, educating graduate students, and teaching courses in gender and trauma. Questions to be addressed include: What social contexts and responses to disclosures of abuse are likely to be beneficial in the classroom, laboratory, inbox, and faculty office? What is a teacher to do when students spontaneously disclose abuse? What can be done in advance to reduce the likelihood of harmful outcome? How can a teacher manage for her/himself as well as the students the emotional reality of oppression and trauma, while enhancing the intellectual and academic experience?


Exploring the Potential of Pennebaker's Writing Paradigm on Betrayal Trauma Sequelae.

Allard, C.B., Freyd, J.J., & Momiyama, T.
Full Poster: (2.5 MB)

In Pennebaker's writing paradigm, participants are instructed either to write about emotional events or neutral topics. Those assigned to the emotional writing condition typically display physical and psychological health improvements as compared to those who write about something neutral (Pennebaker, 1997; Smyth, 1998). Up until now, the writing paradigm has for the most part been applied to events which have been described as emotional but not specifically traumatic and those few studies that have looked at the effect of writing about traumatic experiences have only involved one-time non-complex traumas. There is evidence that the consequences of one-time traumas are different than those of continuous, complex traumas, such as child abuse. Furthermore, betrayal trauma theory (Freyd, 1996, 2001) distinguishes traumas on the basis of two event dimensions which may elicit different reactions: life-threat (e.g. major car accident; violent rape by a stranger) and social betrayal (e.g. abuse by a close other). Betrayal trauma is perpetrated by someone who is close to the victim and/or upon whom the victim is dependent. Such events are associated with unawareness and impaired memory for the trauma, presumably for the purpose of preserving the victim-perpetrator relationship. Exposure to betrayal trauma has been associated with various negative sequelae. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the generalizability of Pennebaker's Paradigm to betrayal trauma. A secondary goal of the study was to help elucidate the mechanism behind this phenomenon by analyzing the content of the essays using Pennebaker's Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC; Pennebaker, Francis & Booth, 2001), and rating the essays in terms of characteristics hypothesized to play important roles in the effect of writing, such as coherence, presence of emotion words, narrative point of view, and development over time. Sixty-five physically symptomatic university undergraduates (51 female, 14 male; mean age = 19.94 years, SD = 3.86) were randomly assigned to one of two writing conditions. Participants in the traumatic condition were asked to write about a distressing interpersonal event they experienced during childhood and those in the neutral condition were asked to write about how they spent their time during the previous day. They wrote about their assigned topic twice, one week apart. All participants were administered abuse inventories, and pre and posttest physical and psychological health questionnaires. Over 50% of all participants reported having experienced at least one betrayal trauma and women reported more betrayal trauma than men. Betrayal trauma and health measures were found to be negatively related. A significant gender by writing condition interaction emerged, which revealed that, in general, women in the trauma writing condition benefited more than men. Closer examination of the content and structure of the essays revealed interesting patterns between certain writing components and outcome measures. These findings suggest that it would be fruitful to consider the type of trauma experienced by a person when determining the best intervention. In addition, directing the writing process to include those components found to be related to outcomes may enhance the effectiveness of a writing intervention. This needs to be tested in a controlled experimental trial. Future research is also recommended to replicate these findings in a larger and less homogenous population.

Also see:

Our Full Text Articles on Trauma