Experiential avoidance and the relationship between child maltreatment and PTSD symptoms: Preliminary evidence

Chad E. Shenk, Frank W. Putnam, Jennie G. Noll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


Objective: Not every adolescent exposed to child maltreatment develops symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emphasizing the need to identify variables that explain how some maltreated children come to develop these symptoms. This study tested whether a set of variables, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and cortisol reactivity as well as experiential avoidance, explained the relationship between child maltreatment and PTSD symptoms. Methods: Adolescent females (. N=. 110; . n=. 51 maltreated) 14-19 years of age completed interviews, questionnaires, and a stressor paradigm. A multiple mediator model was used to assess the effect for the set of variables while identifying specific indirect effects for each variable. Results: Results indicated that the set of variables mediated the relationship between child maltreatment and PTSD symptoms. However, only experiential avoidance contributed significantly to this effect when simultaneously estimating all other variables. The indirect effect for experiential avoidance was also significantly stronger than the effects of RSA and cortisol reactivity. Conclusions: Data support the examination of experiential avoidance in understanding how adolescents who have been maltreated develop PTSD symptoms with implications for prevention and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-126
Number of pages9
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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