Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean E. Rhodes

Second Advisor

Paul Nestor

Third Advisor

Fran H. Norris


Natural disasters pose a growing threat to the physical and psychological integrity of people across the globe, especially vulnerable populations. Although the number and sophistication of studies devoted to examining the consequences of natural disasters and the associated risk and protective factors are increasing, there is no consensus on the operationalization of exposure severity. This is problematic because incomplete and inconsistent measurement of exposure limits the internal and external validity of disaster studies. To help resolve this issue, the current project examined the predictive validity of severity measures in three interrelated studies. First, in a meta-analysis of Hurricane Katrina studies, the effect size of exposure severity on symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder was estimated. Within this context, the moderating effects of sample and study characteristics were examined. Second, in an integrative data analysis of multiple samples of Hurricane Katrina survivors, the impact of specific disaster-related stressors on mental health was compared. Third, drawing on a four-wave longitudinal panel dataset of Hurricane Katrina survivors, a series of multivariate and latent variable models were examined to help elucidate the relationship between disaster-related stressors and their impact on mental health. The results from the three studies are integrated and their implication for disaster research and relief are discussed.


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