Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Newton, Tamara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Depue, Brendan E.

Committee Member

Depue, Brendan E.

Committee Member

Lyle, Keith B.

Committee Member

O'Connor, Stephen S.

Committee Member

Sephton, Sandra

Author's Keywords

gender; hormones; rumination; memory; trauma; women


Women experience fewer traumatic stressors over their lifespan than men, but demonstrate a higher prevalence of major depression and stressor-related disorders as a result of trauma exposure (Breslau & Anthony, 2007; Kessler et al., 2005). Differences in prevalence of stressor-related disorders may partially be due to sex-linked vulnerabilities related to emotional memory. Emotion assists in modulation of memory through neurological processes. This modulation enhances memory for emotional stimuli and can lead to a greater frequency of involuntary recall after stressor exposure. This involuntary memory is also a hallmark symptom of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sex-linked vulnerabilities, specifically hormonal status and frequency of brooding rumination may contribute to a higher prevalence of PTSD in women following stress exposure through their influence on emotional memory processes. The current study further examined these potential sex-linked vulnerabilities in 77 (43 hormonal contraceptive users and 34 naturally cycling) women. Participants were asked to report on their experience of involuntary memories each evening for seven days following exposure to a trauma analogue film. Contrary to hypotheses, neither hormonal contraceptive status nor brooding rumination were statistically significant predictors of involuntary memory frequency, related distress, or related activity interference during the seven day follow-up. Severity of depressive symptoms was the only statistically significant predictor in all tested models. Findings further highlight current depressive symptoms, as a robust vulnerability factor for developing intrusive memories following stressor exposure.