Sources of Social Support and Trauma Recovery: Evidence for Bidirectional Associations from a Recently Trauma-Exposed Community Sample

Lauren M. Sippel, Rachel E. Liebman, Sarah K. Schäfer, Naomi Ennis, Alexandra C. Mattern, David C. Rozek, Candice M. Monson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the association between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social support is well documented, few studies have tested the causal pathways explaining this association at several points in the acute post-trauma recovery period or examined whether the association varies for different sources of social support. To address these gaps, 151 community individuals (mean age = 37.20 years, 69.5% women) exposed to trauma within the previous 6 months were recruited to complete measures of PTSD and social support from intimate partners, friends, and relatives four times in 1 year. In line with recent recommendations for research on social support and PTSD symptoms, random intercept cross-lagged panel modeling (RI-CLPM) was used to examine dynamic changes between PTSD severity and social support over time. The pattern of RI-CLPM cross-lagged coefficients indicated that positive deviations from one’s expected stable level of total social support (across all sources) sped up the recovery of PTSD symptoms at the end of the post-trauma year, and more severe PTSD symptoms than expected based on one’s expected stable level of PTSD started eroding social support midway through the assessment year. When specific sources of social support were analyzed separately, the association between within-person increases in social support from friends at any given time point accelerated the recovery from PTSD across the entire year. Among participants with intimate partners (n = 53), intimate partner support did not predict PTSD symptoms, but more severe PTSD symptoms at any given time point predicted less support at the following time point. Results from this longitudinal study provide additional support for the bidirectional relationship between PTSD and social support over time and suggest that perceived social support from friends may be especially helpful during trauma recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number284
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • PTSD
  • emotional support
  • friends
  • longitudinal
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • social connectedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • General Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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