Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Christine L Larson

Committee Members

Hanjoo Lee, Terri deRoon-Cassini


Racial discrimination is a traumatic stressor that increases risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but mechanisms to explain this relationship remain unclear. Peritraumatic dissociation, the complex process of disorientation, depersonalization, and derealization during a traumatic event, has been found as a consistent predictor of PTSD. Experiences of racial discrimination may force many Black Americans to detach from their environment to mitigate stress and protect their well-being, which, in turn, increases risk for dissociation. However, this has not been specifically explored with peritraumatic dissociation. The current study explored the role of peritraumatic dissociation in the impact of racial discrimination on PTSD symptoms after a traumatic injury, and the intersectional role of gender. One hundred and thirteen Black/African American individuals were recruited from the Emergency Department at a Level One Trauma Center. Two weeks after the traumatic event, participants self-reported their experiences with racial discrimination and peritraumatic dissociation. At the six-month follow-up appointment, individuals underwent a clinical assessment of their PTSD symptoms. Results of longitudinal mediation analyses showed that peritraumatic dissociation significantly mediated the effect of racial discrimination on PTSD symptoms, after controlling for age and lifetime trauma exposure. A secondary analysis was conducted to examine the moderating role of gender in the mediation model. Gender was not a significant moderator in the model. A discussion will follow explaining how the results of this current study can inform prevention and intervention efforts as well as directions for future research.