Emotion Language in Trauma Narratives Is Associated With Better Psychological Adjustment Among Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Britney M. Wardecker, Robin S. Edelstein, Jodi A. Quas, Ingrid M. Cordón, Gail S. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Traumatized individuals are often encouraged to confront their experiences by talking or writing about them. However, survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) might find it especially difficult to process abuse experiences, particularly when the abuse is more severe. The current study examined whether CSA survivors who use emotion language when describing their abuse experiences exhibit better mental health. We analyzed the trauma narratives of 55 adults who, as children, were part of a larger study of the long-term emotional effects of criminal prosecutions on CSA survivors. Abuse narratives were analyzed using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count program. We examined whether positive and negative emotion language in participants’ abuse narratives were associated with self- and caregiver-reported mental health symptoms and whether these associations differed by abuse severity. As hypothesized, participants who used more positive and negative emotion language had better psychological outcomes, especially when the abuse was more severe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-653
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Volume36
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

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