Being an avid observer of human behavior, I have always been interested in how people respond to stress and trauma. I am intrigued at the complexity of the coping reactions (cognitive, emotional, behavioral, physiological, and interpersonal) that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event. I am also fascinated that people undergoing the same trauma can exhibit different reactions to it. My program of research examines how different coping strategies serve to increase or decrease a person’s risk of negative outcomes, such as mental and physical health problems, substance abuse, and relationship distress. Above all, I am interested in resiliency and posttraumatic growth—how some people appear unfazed by traumatic events while others seem to learn something meaningful from horrendous experiences.
Within my research on trauma-related coping, risk, and resiliency, I have conducted research on the impact of avoidant coping and peritraumatic dissociation (unconscious cognitive separation of experience, emotions, and memory) as well as the factor structure of posttraumatic stress disorder that helped to inform current diagnostic criteria. My research has also focused on ethical issues related to trauma research (such as informed consent and negative reactions to trauma-based research) and pedagogical concerns related to teaching trauma; this work has been used in adapting research protocols and training future psychologists. Click here for a list of representative publications.
A major subfocus of my research is the assessment, prevention, and treatment of interpersonal violence (IPV), such as domestic violence, sexual assault, peer mistreatment, and child abuse. I have researched the prevalence of IPV in specific populations (e.g., children and minority groups), risk and resiliency factors associated with IPV (e.g., coping styles, personality variables, social support), resulting psychopathology (e.g., posttraumatic stress, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse), and changes in behavior, cognition, physiology, and interpersonal relationships that result from IPV. My research on prevention includes work on the effectiveness of individual and community-based models of prevention of IPV on campus and in the community. Much of my research examines the paradigm of bystander intervention, or the community-based approach to prevention that employs social networks to prevent harm to anyone within that social group. Click here for a list of representative publications