Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Joseph M. Fitzgerald



The autobiographical memory model of PTSD posits that the memory for the traumatic experience is influential in development of the disorder (Rubin, Berntsen, & Bohni, 2008). In particular, Berntsen & Rubin (2006) argue that the degree of event centralization, the incorporation of the memory into the individual's sense of self and life story, is directly related to the degree of PTSD symptoms exhibited by the individual. The present series of studies systematically analyzes event centralization and its relationship to PTSD, while taking into account other variables such as cognitive and emotion variables, as well as individual differences.

Study one explored event centralization as an additional factor of PTSD symptoms. Results from this study suggest that PTSD is best described by a higher order model that includes the following five lower order factors: event centralization, reexperienceing, effortful avoidance, emotional numbing, and hyperarousal. In study two, predictors of adaptive and maladaptive outcomes were compared in a joint mediation model. The results from this model suggest that Neuroticism is a risk factor for PTSD, and that this may be due to Neuroticism causing increases in event-related rumination and event centralization. Conversely, Agreeableness is a protective factor that increases reflection and emotion-focused coping, which subsequently leads to posttraumatic growth. Finally, study three expanded the centrality of events scale to specify the emotional direction of the centralization. Results from this study suggest that some individuals centralized their traumatic event in a positive way, but negative event centralization was a stronger predictor of PTSD symptoms than was positive event centralization.

Combined, the results of these studies support the theorized role of event centralization in the development of PTSD. Given the growing body of evidence for the relationship between event centralization and PTSD symptoms, clinical practices should be updated to better serve the individuals afflicted by PTSD.

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