Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean E. Rhodes

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

Mary C. Waters


The purpose of this study was to investigate trajectories of psychological distress among low-income women, primarily unmarried and African American, who survived Hurricane Katrina (N = 386). Data were collected in the year prior to the hurricane, as well as approximately one and three years thereafter. Using Latent Class Growth Analysis (LCGA), we detected six distinct trajectory groups. Over half of participants fit into a trajectory consistent with resilience; that is, they maintained low levels of psychological distress over the course of the study, but experienced an elevation in symptoms at the first pre-disaster time point, followed by a return to pre-disaster levels. The other trajectories reflected the range in psychological responses to disasters, and suggested pre-disaster functioning as having a major influence on post-disaster psychological outcomes. Exposure to hurricane-related stressors, experiences of human and pet bereavement, perceived social support, and socioeconomic status were significant predictors of trajectory group membership. Based on these findings, we recommend policies that protect against hurricane exposure, promote the rebuilding of social support networks, and assist survivors in identifying employment and educational opportunities, as well as well as empirically supported clinical interventions that help survivors cope with longstanding or emergent symptoms. Further longitudinal quantitative studies, as well as qualitative analysis of survivors' accounts of post-disaster psychological experiences, would advance our understanding of resilience and other trajectories of functioning in the aftermath of traumatic events.