Term of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Dorthie Cross

Committee Member 1

Nicholas Holtzman

Committee Member 2

Thresa Yancey


A growing body of research indicates an association between trauma, inflammation, and chronic inflammatory disease; however, the mechanisms of this relationship are not fully understood, and the salience of potential risk factors, such as cumulative effects of trauma, trauma type, and gender, remain unclear. Trauma is associated with poor mental and physical health, such as PTSD, depression, and chronic inflammatory conditions, and this association may be stronger when certain risk factors are considered (Brody, Pratt, & Hughes, 2018; Groer, Kane, Williams, & Duffy, 2014; Husky, Mazure, & Kovess-Masfety, 2018; Kilpatrick et al., 2013). For example, sexual trauma and multiple traumatic exposures are both associated with higher risk of developing chronic inflammatory conditions (Ayaydin et al., 2016; D’Elia et al., 2018). Furthermore, women are at greater risk than men for exposure to sexual trauma, PTSD, and chronic inflammatory conditions (Kilpatrick et al., 2013; Sledjeski, Speisman, & Dierker, 2008). The current study examined the relationship between lifetime chronic inflammatory diseases and lifetime trauma; gender differences in trauma, PTSD symptoms, and chronic inflammatory disease; and potential interaction of gender and trauma type in predicting chronic inflammatory disease. Participants (N = 453; 267 women, 186 men) were recruited via MTurk and completed self-report questionnaires of childhood trauma, lifetime trauma, PTSD symptoms, health history, and demographics. Data were analyzed using two hierarchal regression analyses with number of chronic inflammatory diseases endorsed as the criterion in both. In the first regression, childhood trauma and gender (first step) and an interaction term (childhood trauma × gender; second step) were entered as predictors, and neither the individual predictors nor the interaction term accounted for significant variance in number of chronic inflammatory diseases. In the second regression, lifetime interpersonal trauma, lifetime non-interpersonal trauma, and gender (first step) and two interaction terms (lifetime interpersonal trauma × gender; lifetime non-interpersonal trauma × gender; second step) were entered as predictors, and, again, none of the individual predictors and neither of the interaction terms accounted for significant variance in number of chronic inflammatory diseases. Results did not support study hypotheses. Implications of these findings and limitations are discussed.

Research Data and Supplementary Material