Resource loss, self-efficacy, and family support predict posttraumatic stress symptoms: a 3-year study of earthquake survivors

Lisa Marie Warner, Benicio Gutiérrez-Doña, Maricela Villegas Angulo, Ralf Schwarzer
Anxiety, Stress, and Coping 2015, 28 (3): 239-53

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Social support and self-efficacy are regarded as coping resources that may facilitate readjustment after traumatic events. The 2009 Cinchona earthquake in Costa Rica serves as an example for such an event to study resources to prevent subsequent severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms.

DESIGN: At Time 1 (1-6 months after the earthquake in 2009), N=200 survivors were interviewed, assessing resource loss, received family support, and posttraumatic stress response. At Time 2 in 2012, severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms and general self-efficacy beliefs were assessed.

METHODS: Regression analyses estimated the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms accounted for by all variables. Moderator and mediator models were examined to understand the interplay of received family support and self-efficacy with posttraumatic stress symptoms.

RESULTS: Baseline posttraumatic stress symptoms and resource loss (T1) accounted for significant but small amounts of the variance in the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms (T2). The main effects of self-efficacy (T2) and social support (T1) were negligible, but social support buffered resource loss, indicating that only less supported survivors were affected by resource loss. Self-efficacy at T2 moderated the support-stress relationship, indicating that low levels of self-efficacy could be compensated by higher levels of family support. Receiving family support at T1 enabled survivors to feel self-efficacious, underlining the enabling hypothesis.

CONCLUSIONS: Receiving social support from relatives shortly after an earthquake was found to be an important coping resource, as it alleviated the association between resource loss and the severity of posttraumatic stress response, compensated for deficits of self-efficacy, and enabled self-efficacy, which was in turn associated with more adaptive adjustment 3 years after the earthquake.

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