Shared Traumatic Stress among Social Workers in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Carol Tosone, John P. McTighe, Jennifer Bauwens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

With climate change, social workers and other mental health professionals may find themselves living and working in environments prone to natural disasters. The term shared traumatic stress (SdTS) contains aspects of post-traumatic stress and secondary trauma, and reflects practitioners' dual exposure to collective traumatic events. In an effort to explore and further validate the construct of SdTS, a sample of 244 social workers from New Orleans were studied using path analytic modelling with respect to the personal and professional impact of Hurricane Katrina. Potential risk factors included attachment style, exposure to potentially traumatic life events and enduring distress attributed to Hurricane Katrina. Social workers' resilience was examined for its role in mediating the relationship between these risk factors and SdTS. As hypothesised, insecure attachment, greater exposure to potentially traumatic life events in general and distress related to the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina were predictive of higher levels of SdTS. Insecure attachment and enduring distress attributed to Katrina also significantly predicted lower levels of resilience, though exposure to potentially traumatic life events did not. Resilience was found to mediate the relationship between insecure attachment, enduring distress attributed to Katrina and SdTS but not the relationship between exposure to potentially traumatic life events and SdTS. Implications for theory, research and practice are described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1313-1329
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

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Keywords

  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Shared trauma
  • secondary trauma
  • shared traumatic reality
  • shared traumatic stress
  • social worker trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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