Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Julie Costopoulos

Second Advisor

Mariana Juras

Third Advisor

Kelli Hunsucker

Fourth Advisor

Robert Taylor


Hispanics/Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States and are estimated to compose half of the American population by 2060 if growing trends follow current levels. It has been suggested that Latinx/Hispanics perceive and react to adverse experiences with somatization, which is highly comorbid with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms (van der Kolk, et al 1996). This study surveyed 451 participants from which 88% identified as being Hispanic or Latinas, 2.7% identified as being Black Hispanic/Black Latina, and 9.3% identified as having mixed ethnicities including Hispanic/Latina. Regarding place of birth, 431 respondents (95.6%) identified being born in Continental USA, and 20 reported being born in another country, territory or dependency. Groups for comparison were based on language spoken at home (English = 348, Spanish = 69, Portuguese = 14), immigration status (327 citizens, 108 other), ethnic identity (Latinx/Hispanic = 399, black-Latina = 19, mixed = 46), and reported immigration vulnerability. This sample had an unusually high representation of women who had experienced child abuse, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and trauma symptoms meeting the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Results supported the hypothesis that somatic symptoms and overall trauma symptoms were predicted by immigration vulnerability, child abuse, and IPV. Some of the results include immigration vulnerability predicting 15% of variability on PCL-5 scores and childhood trauma (M = 65.53, SD = 13.41) significantly predicting somatization (M = 19.95, SD = 8.91), b = .52, p < .001, R2 = 27, F(1, 444)= 166.77, p < .001. Childhood trauma (M = 65.53, SD = 13.41), b = .43, p< .001 significantly predicted total trauma (M = 33.49, SD = 14.33) in combination with immigration vulnerability (M= 37.19, SD = 26.15), b = .28, p < .001. Intimate partner violence together with immigration vulnerability predicted 27% of variance in somatization R2 = .27, F(2, 373)= 70.19, p< .001. Furthermore, a model including immigration vulnerability, childhood trauma, and intimate partner violence predicted 34% of the variability in PTSD as measured by the PCL-5, R2 = .34, F(3, 372) = 65.03, p < .001. The theory of learned helplessness was used as a guide to interpret the findings and supported the data that suggests that the compilation of traumatic experiences reaches such a level that the individual becomes paralyzed and takes no further action to stop, remediate, or address additional trauma. This has implications for identifying and providing treatment for women who are in these cultural groups.


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