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Positive traits versus previous trauma: racially different correlates with PTSD symptoms among hurricane katrina-rita volunteers


  • Amy L. Ai is supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Silberman Foundation, and the Pitt Center on Race and Social Problems. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.


This study compared risks and protective factors for acquiring symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) between African-American (n=299) and European-American (n=206) student volunteers 3 months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (H-KR). Respondents retrospectively provided information on peritraumatic emotional reactions and previous trauma that were recalled by H-KR and H-KR stressors. African-American respondents reported higher levels of symptoms and higher rates of recollection of prior traumas during H-KR than their European-American counterparts. Hierarchical regression analyses found that previous trauma recollections predicted symptoms among European Americans but not among African Americans. Disaster-related stressors, however, affected African Americans more than European Americans. Though negative emotions had negative outcomes for both groups, positive emotions and hope served as protective factors for African Americans. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.