Psychological Distress and Well-Being in Trauma-Exposed Adolescents: A Residualized, Person-Centered Approach to Resilience

Joseph R. Cohen, Jae Wan Choi, Hena Thakur, Jeff R. Temple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Positive adaptation manifests differently in the aftermath of traumatic events. Methodological limitations, however, impede the ability to test conceptualizations of resilience that emphasize the multifaceted nature of these responses. In response, an approach that synthesized a residualized and person-centered conceptualization of resilience examined associations between aspects of resilience in an adolescent sample. In total, 584 racially/ethnically diverse adolescents (age range: 12–17 years; M = 14.98 years; SD = 1.05; 50.9% female; 30.1% White, 29.6% African American, 19.5% Hispanic) self-reported lifetime emotional maltreatment and community violence exposure as well as current levels of depression, posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), violent behavior, and psychological well-being (PWB). Each mental health outcome was regressed on lifetime trauma exposure to create residuals used as indices of resilience. Correlations between the residuals suggested that PWB was more closely related to resilience to depression and PTS, rs =.17–.30, than violent behavior, r =.00. Residuals were subsequently entered into person-centered analyses to identify representative well-being profiles. Cluster analysis identified four groups, including two adaptive profiles defined by (a) lower distress and higher PWB and (b) lower psychopathology and lower PWB, based on adolescents’ levels of trauma exposure. These two profiles did not vary regarding impairment, p >.999, suggesting both profiles represent positive adaption to lifetime trauma exposure. Theoretical and clinical implications of distinguishing between these two profiles by assessing PWB in adolescents are discussed, as well as how PWB may manifest within the context of different patterns of psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-500
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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