Risk and Protective Factors for Adjustment of College Women After a Mass Shooting

Principal Investigator: Holly K. Orcutt, Ph.D.  
Co-Investigators:  Leslie Matuszewich, Ph.D., Mandy Rabenhorst, Ph.D., & David P. Valentiner, Ph.D.
Funding Source:  National Institutes of Health/ National Institute of Mental Health (NIH/NIMH)
Dates of Project: 9/08 - 5/10

The specific aim of the proposed longitudinal study is to prospectively examine immediate and long-term (up to 2 years) adjustment outcomes (i.e., posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, depression symptoms, and anxiety symptoms) following the mass shooting that occurred on the Northern Illinois University (NIU) campus in DeKalb, Illinois, on February 14, 2008. At the time of the shooting, a large sample of female undergraduates at NIU were participating in a longitudinal study of sexual revictimization. Given the trauma-focused nature of the revictimization study, it provided a unique opportunity to examine post-shooting adjustment outcomes while controlling for pre-shooting adjustment levels.   Following the mass shooting, 812 participants were invited to complete an online follow-up survey 27 days following the mass shooting (Time 2); Eighty five percent (n = 691) completed the Time 2 survey.  The survey contained assessments of post-shooting adjustment, degree of exposure to the shooting, and additional risk and protective factors (e.g., social support, posttraumatic growth). Additional online follow-up surveys were conducted in the Fall 2008 and the Spring 2009.  Two additional timepoints are planned for Fall 2009 and Spring 2010. Several factors are hypothesized to influence changes in adjustment in the aftermath of the trauma. These include pre-shooting risk factors [e.g., childhood or other trauma exposure, dysregulation of stress hormones (i.e., pre-shooting salivary cortisol levels), and dysfunctional affect regulation strategies], factors associated with the shooting (e.g., severity of exposure), and immediate reactions to the mass shooting (e.g., peritraumatic dissociation and affect regulation strategies for coping with shooting-related distress). In addition to direct effects of proposed risk and protective factors on changes in adjustment level across the six time points, a number of interactive effects will also be tested. Following the Spring 2009 post-shooting assessment, a subset of participants (N = 160) were recruited to participate in a clinical reappraisal study in order to calibrate the self-report screening measures to gold-standard face-to-face structured diagnostic interviews.