The mediating role of trauma-related symptoms in the relationship between sexual victimization and physical health symptomatology in undergraduate women


  • Partial funding for this project was provided by the Hyde Graduate Student Research Grant from the American Psychological Association's Society for the Psychology of Women.


Previous research suggests that posttraumatic stress symptomatology is a partial mediator of the relationship between sexual assault history in adolescence/adulthood and physical health symptomatology (e.g., Eadie, Runtz, & Spencer-Rodgers, 2008). The current study assessed a broader, more inclusive potential mediator, trauma-related symptoms in the relationship between sexual victimization history (including both childhood and adolescent/adulthood sexual victimizations) and physical health symptomatology in a college sample. Participants were 970 young women (M = 18.69, SD = 1.01), who identified mostly as Caucasian (86.7%), from 2 universities who completed a survey packet. Path analysis results provide evidence for trauma-related symptoms as a mediator in the relationship between adolescent/adulthood sexual assault and physical health symptomatology, χ2 (1, N = 970) = 1.55, p = .21; comparative fit index = 1.00; Tucker-Lewis index = 0.99; root mean square error of approximation = .02, 90% confidence interval [.00, .09], Bollen-Stine bootstrap statistic, p = .29. Childhood sexual abuse was not related to physical health symptomatology, but did predict trauma-related symptoms. Implications of these findings suggest that college health services would benefit from targeted integration of psychiatric and medical services for sexual assault survivors given the overlap of psychological and physical symptoms.