Abstract: Perceived Spiritual Support Counteracts the Traumatic Impacts of Deadline Hurricances (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Perceived Spiritual Support Counteracts the Traumatic Impacts of Deadline Hurricances

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Independence BR F, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Ai, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Background. Extreme disasters have increased exponentially in recent decades and result in existential threats in communities globally. People, especially minorities, often turn to their existential relations for survival following disasters; yet, faith factors remains under-investigated in deadly disaster contexts. Researchers posited that perceived existential relatedness, even appearing to be invisible or unreal, is as crucial as positive interpersonal relatedness for human existence and well-being. The perceived spiritual support scale (PSSS) was established as a measure of existential relatedness in disasters among Blacks and Whites (e.g., Hurricane-Katrina, 9/11) and was shown to be protective for victims after disasters. A researcher has current implemented its short-form in a COVID-19 study given the extraordinary distress faced by Europeans. The present study thus took the data from Latino and White victims following H-Maria and Michael to: (1) validate two short forms of the PSSS, (2). examine their roles in posttraumatic growth (PTG) and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD), and (3) evaluate several potential moderators as character strength factors. Methods. Through wide engagement of community agencies, a cross-sectional dataset was collected from a sample with diverse belief systems through an online questionnaire in Florida (N=566; mean age 41.3). Principal axis factoring analyses were performed to establish psychometric properties for the two short-form scales (PSSS-S1 and -S2). Hierarchical regression procedures were conducted to reveal the association of PSSS-S 2 with traumatic outcomes: posttruamtic stress disorder (PTSD, Model 1) and posttruamtic growth (PTG, Model 2) following preplanned steps. Steps 1 and 2 controlled demographics (i.e., age, gender, race, and student status) and disaster related factors (i.e., peritraumatic emotional responses, H-MM related stressors, and reminded previous traumatic experiences by H-MM) as independent variables. In Step 3, PSSS-S1 were entered, and, in Step 4 character strengths factors were introduced as potential moderators. Results. Both PSSS-S1 (the present study) and S2 (the COVID-19 study) demonstrated adequate reliability and validity. PSS was associated inversely with PTSD symptoms at a marginal level but positively and strongly related to PTG. Character strengths moderated the link of PSSS-1 to PTSD but not PTG. In addition, most disaster-related factors were positively associated with both outcomes. The entry of character strength factors eliminated the significance in associations of all demographics, whereas strength of faith became positively associated with PTSD (Model-1). The entry of character strength factors diminished the role of all demographics except age; but those of peritraumatic positive emotions, peritraumatic negative emotions, and H-MM related stressors persisted in PTG (Model-2). A post hoc analysis showed the similar results for the PSSS-S2. Conclusions. Both PSSS-S1 and -S2 presented adequate psychometrical properties (as did the original long version used in both individual and collective trauma and crises). Because these new forms are concise and contain items to be modified for specific disasters or crises, they are ideal for rapid data collection in catastrophic-event contexts among Latinos and Whites. The culminating evidence from the present and previous studies unequivocally suggests a potential function of PSS in counteracting against traumatization during devastating disasters assessed with both positive and negative outcomes.