Precipitating Variables and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Battered Hispanic Woman: A Pilot Study

By Stoebner, Diane; Johnson, Steve W. et al. | TCA Journal, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Precipitating Variables and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Battered Hispanic Woman: A Pilot Study


Stoebner, Diane, Johnson, Steve W., Combs, Don C., Nash, John, TCA Journal


The purpose of this study was to identify the relationship of prior history of abuse and severity of abuse to the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among battered Hispanic women. Chi-Square analyses identified no significant relationship between prior history of abuse or severity of abuse and the incidence of PTSD. Implications of the relationship between battered women and PTSD are discussed.

Mental health workers have identified a set of symptoms commonly observed among individuals who have faced a traumatic life experience. The expressed symptoms are referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), (American Psychiatric Association,1994). Most research on PTSD has focused on casualties of war. More recently, some researchers have shown that PTSD may be present in women who have been in abusive relationships (Astin, Lawrence & Foy,1993; Gleason,1993; Kemp, Rawlings && Green, 1991). However, this area needs continued research to expand knowledge regarding how extensively abusive relationships actually impact women of Hispanic origin.

The purpose of this study was to identify the relationship of prior history of abuse and severity of abuse to the incidence of PTSD among battered Hispanic women. The investigators hypothesized that prior history of abuse and severity of abuse would have a statistically significant relationship to the incidence of PTSD among battered Hispanic women.

Battered women may experience a variety of symptoms as a result of being the victim of an abusive relationship. Some characteristics commonly found among battered women include depression, low self-esteem, self blame and an external locus of control (Aguilar & Nightingale, 1994; Cascardi & O'Leary,1992; Walker, 1984). Additionally, there are specific factors such as the severity of abuse and prior history of abuse, which may precipitate symptom manifestation in battered women (Chez,1988; Follingstad, Brennan, Hause, Polek & Rutledge, 1991; Halle, Burghardt, Dutton & Perrin, 1991). In that PTSD may commonly occur in individuals who are in life threatening situations other than war (Burgess & Holstrom, 1974; Cimino & Dutton,1991; Motta,1994), some battered women may be experiencing PTSD. Prior history of abuse and severity of abuse may be determining or contributing factors to the presence of this disorder.

Prior History of Abuse

Many battered women have experienced a prior abusive relationship, including childhood physical or sexual abuse (Cimino & Dutton, 1991; Halle, et al., 1991; Walker, 1984). Witnessing marital violence as a child has been shown to have a profound effect that persists into adulthood (Brancato, 1987).

Walker (1984) found that 67% of a sample of 400 battered women were from families of origin characterized by violence. In battered women's families of origin, the father battered the mother in 44% of the cases. Halle et al. (1991) and Walker (1984) found that 45% of battered women had been physically and sexually abused as children. The women who had a history of sexual abuse in childhood had higher scores on the Keane-PTSD scale of the MMPI-2 than women with no history of abuse or women with a history of childhood abuse other than sexual.

Severity of Abuse

Chez (1988), Follingstad et al. (1991), and Houskamp and Foy (1991) demonstrated that severity of abuse may also be a factor in the development of a psychological disorder among battered women.

Follingstad et al. (1991) found five variables associated with increases in physical and psychological symptoms in battered women: (a) type of severe force, (b) frequency of severe force, (c) frequency of abuse in general, (d) the ability of the woman to predict likelihood of abuse, and (e) the ability to predict physical abuse based on the presence of prior emotional abuse. Other factors contributing to the development of significant physical and psychological symptoms were: (a) destruction of the woman's personal property, (b) adherence to traditional sex roles, and (c) a high number of sustained injuries necessitating medical attention. …

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