Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology



First Advisor

Stefan E. Schulenberg

Second Advisor

Scott A. Gustafson

Third Advisor

Carrie V. Smith

Relational Format



In April of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Platform exploded, resulting in the release of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of three months. In addition to the ecological and economic impact of the disaster, the spill also had a significant impact on the psychological well-being of coastal residents. Following a disaster, not all affected people experience the same level of distress or long-term, negative psychological effects. Coping mechanisms such as resilience and perceived meaning in life are essential variables in understanding how people respond to a wide range of disasters. The present study examines the relationship between resilience, perceived meaning in life, and traumatic stress symptoms among coastal residents of Mississippi directly affected by the Gulf Oil Spill. The study was conducted as part of a larger project that assessed the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill on the mental health of individuals seeking therapeutic services ( N = 1119). It was predicted that meaning and resilience would be related to each other significantly and positively and that individuals with higher levels of resilience and/or perceived meaning in life would report significantly fewer symptoms of posttraumatic stress. After controlling for the impact of the spill, it was also predicted that both resilience and meaning would be significant predictors of posttraumatic stress symptoms and that adding meaning to the resilience model would make for a stronger model overall. Multiple hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to determine if resilience and perceived meaning are significant predictors of scores from a measure of posttraumatic stress. Meaning and resilience were found to be significantly and positive correlated. Higher levels of resilience and meaning separately were both predictive of lower levels of posttraumatic stress scores, and resilience and meaning together were predictive of posttraumatic stress after controlling for the impact of the spill. Based on the analyses, it is apparent that resilience and perceived meaning in life are similarly strong, significant predictors of fewer posttraumatic stress symptoms and these two constructs are highly correlated. Implications for these data are discussed.


Emphasis: Clinical Psychology

Included in

Psychology Commons



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