Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean E. Rhodes

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

SV Subramanian


Although both depression and stress have been linked to obesity, little is known about the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder and weight trajectories. To look at potential associations between stress, weight, and trauma, the data from 866 Hurricane Katrina survivors was analyzed. Participants were primarily low income, African-American mothers. Participants were assessed at four time points ranging from one year before Hurricane Katrina to approximately four years after the hurricane. Latent growth curve (LGC) and hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) were used to investigate how demographic (e.g. age), psychological (e.g. post-traumatic stress symptoms), and exposure variables (e.g. lacking knowledge about family safety) affected weight changes in Katrina survivors. Results from LGC modeling indicated that being older, African American and cohabitating with a partner were significantly related to having a heavier weight at the beginning of the study. Models also indicated that slower weight gain was associated with having more children at the start of the study and being African American. Results from the HLM could not be analyzed due to a lack of variation in the data. Results are discussed in the context of current literature. The discussion of these results provides a critical first step in attempting to increase the understanding of the physical health effects of natural disasters by elucidating associations between obesity and psychological functioning in underserved, high-risk populations.


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