Avoidant coping strategies, which involve cognitions and behaviors aimed to avoid dealing with stressful experiences, are associated with adverse long-term mental and physical health outcomes. In response to traumatic events, these strategies can be maladaptive as they may interfere with the adaptive integration of traumatic events into consolidated memories. Using data from a nationally representative sample of more than 3000 trauma-exposed U.S. military veterans (mean time since trauma 30.9 years, SD = 19.9), we employed a network analytic approach to examine pairwise associations between key sociodemographic, personality, and psychosocial risk factors in relation to the endorsement of avoidant coping strategies. Results revealed that negative affect symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and adverse childhood experiences were positively associated with engagement in avoidance coping, and that greater emotional stability and conscientiousness were negatively associated with this measure. Secondary network analysis of individual negative affect symptoms of PTSD suggested that blaming oneself and/or others for the traumatic event, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse were most strongly linked to avoidance coping. Collectively, these results suggest that strong feelings of blame related to trauma, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse are associated with greater likelihood of engaging in avoidance coping, while emotional stability and conscientiousness are associated with a lower likelihood of engaging in such strategies.
- Network analysis
- Relative importance