The Effect of Participating in a Trauma- and Stressful Event-Focused Study


  • Author affiliations at the time of the study are as follows: Sadie E. Larsen, Psychology Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Howard Berenbaum, Psychology Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sadie E. Larsen is now at the Psychology Service, Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI.

  • This research is based on part of the first author's doctoral dissertation. This manuscript is also partially the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the Clement J. Zablocki VAMC, Milwaukee, WI.



Researchers have increasingly examined whether participants who have experienced a traumatic event should be considered vulnerable research populations. Studies have typically asked participants in trauma-focused research whether they were upset by the study or perceived any benefit from it. The current study extends such research by measuring mood and exploring potential moderators of the impact of study participation.


Participants were 107 women who experienced a traumatic or stressful event and completed an event-focused research protocol. Negative affect was measured, using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, at the time of the study and 1 week later.


Participants reported significantly lower levels of negative affect in the week after the study than before it. Decreases in negative affect were greatest for those with highest levels of depression at the time of interview.


Participation in a trauma- or stressful-event-focused study is not harmful and may even be beneficial, especially among depressed participants.