Resilience to Suicidal Ideation Among College Sexual Assault Survivors: The Protective Role of Optimism and Gratitude in the Context of Posttraumatic Stress

Shaina A. Kumar, Anna E. Jaffe, Rebecca L. Brock, David DiLillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Posttraumatic stress symptoms related to sexual assault have been linked to greater suicidal ideation, yet little is known about protective factors that may weaken this link and reduce thoughts of suicide in the context of posttraumatic stress. Drawing on the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions and prior research, psychological strengths associated with resilience, such as optimism and gratitude, have the potential to be associated with attenuated suicidal ideation among sexual assault survivors. Method: We tested this possibility in a sample of 425 undergraduate women who reported unwanted sexual experiences during adolescence or adulthood. Results: A linear regression analysis revealed that greater sexual assault-related posttraumatic stress symptoms in the past month were associated with greater concurrent suicidal ideation. However, moderation analyses revealed the link between assault-related posttraumatic stress and suicidal ideation was attenuated for individuals higher in optimism and gratitude. Further, at the highest levels of optimism and gratitude, there was no longer a significant association between posttraumatic stress and suicidal ideation. Conclusions: Given optimism and gratitude are modifiable strengths that individuals can develop and grow over time, these results suggest boosting optimism and gratitude may be a valuable way to attenuate thoughts of suicide in interventions for college women who have experienced sexual assault.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • gratitude
  • optimism
  • resilience
  • strengths
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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