Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Kevin L. Nadal

Committee Members

Adjoa Aboagye

Chakira Haddock-Lazala

Veronica Johnson

Silvia Mazzula

Subject Categories

Cardiovascular Diseases | Clinical Psychology | Community Health | Health Psychology

Keywords

psychological trauma, cardiovascular disease, incarcerated populations, people of color, forensic psychology, clinical psychology

Abstract

Research supports that racial disparities in health persist in the United States, with cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular disease remaining particularly high in low-income, communities of color (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013; Winkleby, Jatulis, Frank, & Fortmann, 1992). Public health literature often focuses on sociodemographic variables when assessing for health disparities without considering trauma or forensic populations. This dissertation provides an overview of literature that examines cardiovascular disease and its relationship to trauma, particularly in low-income, communities of color, and forensic populations. Although the dissertation culminates in providing results for an investigation that examined these factors together in a forensic sample, arguments for culturally competent conceptualization of research projects regarding ethnoracial constructs, intersectional approaches, and mixed methodologies are presented.

Results indicate that: (a) risk factors for CVD (i.e., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes) are not significant predictors of trauma exposure; (b) posttraumatic symptoms are not predictive of CVD risk factors, but age, being Black (compared to Latinx), and ethnicity are significant in predicting elevated posttraumatic stress scores; and (c) posttraumatic stress symptoms moderate the relationship between trauma exposure and high blood pressure. The dissertation ends with arguments for why these results necessitate cautious interpretation.

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