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Psychological Distress and Well-Being in Trauma-Exposed Adolescents: A Residualized, Person-Centered Approach to Resilience

NCJ Number
Journal of Traumatic Stress Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: 2021 Pages: 487-500
Date Published
14 pages

Since methodological limitations impede the ability to test conceptualizations of resilience that emphasize the multifaceted nature of responses to traumatic events, this article reports on an approach that synthesized a residualized and person-centered conceptualization of resilience that examined associations between aspects of resilience in a sample of adolescents.


A total of 584 racially/ethnically diverse adolescents (age range: 12–17 years; M = 14.98 years; SD = 1.05; 50.9 percent female; 30.1 percent White, 29.6 percent African American, 19.5 percent Hispanic) self-reported lifetime emotional maltreatment and community violence exposure, as well as current levels of depression, posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), violent behavior, and psychological well-being (PWB). Each mental health outcome was regressed on lifetime trauma exposure to create residuals used as indices of resilience. Correlations between the residuals suggested that PWB was more closely related to resilience to depression and PTS, rs = .17–.30, than violent behavior, r = .00. Residuals were subsequently entered into person-centered analyses to identify representative well-being profiles. Cluster analysis identified four groups, including two adaptive profiles defined by (a) lower distress and higher PWB and (b) lower psychopathology and lower PWB, based on adolescents’ levels of trauma exposure. These two profiles did not vary regarding impairment, p > .999, suggesting both profiles represent positive adaption to lifetime trauma exposure. Theoretical and clinical implications of distinguishing between these two profiles by assessing PWB in adolescents are discussed, as well as how PWB may manifest within the context of different patterns of psychological distress. (publisher abstract modified)


Date Published: January 1, 2021