Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Wang, Yu-Wei

Second Advisor

Rodriguez, Benjamin


The current study employed an exploratory approach to examine how specific sets of variables map onto a theoretical framework of posttraumatic growth (Schaefer & Moos, 1998). Specifically, the predictive capacity of belief in ultimate justice, optimism, and supportive relationships on outcomes of posttraumatic growth (PTG) and distress were examined, as mediated by supportive spirituality, meaning making, and problem solving. Secondarily, the factor structure and internal consistency of the English translation of the Belief in Immanent and Ultimate Justice Scale (BIUJS; Maes, 1998a, 1998b) was tested, which had yet to be used in the United States or with sexual assault survivors specifically. Archival data of 217 female survivors of sexual assault who completed an online survey as part of the author’s thesis were analyzed through structural equation modeling (SEM). The BIUJS, when applied specifically to sexual assault survivors, is best represented by a three-factor solution. The model hypothesized according to Schaefer and Moos’ (1998) theoretical framework was not supported by SEM results, and an alternate model emerged from analyses is presented to explain how worldview and appraisal/coping are related to posttraumatic growth and distress for sexual assault survivors. Survivors’ worldview (i.e., supportive spirituality, belief in ultimate justice, and belief in an immanently just world) indirectly predicted levels of PTG and distress. The relation between worldview and outcomes was significantly mediated by appraisal and coping (i.e., presence of meaning, optimism, supportive relationships, and problem solving). The current study adds to the literature and provides important directions for researchers and clinicians by demonstrating the important roles of worldview and appraisal/coping in facilitating growth, as well as the essential role of distress in healing.




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