Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Omar G. Gudiño

Second Advisor

Anne DePrince

Third Advisor

Angela Narayan

Fourth Advisor

Erum Nadeem

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Bellamy


Indirect trauma exposure, School mental health, Secondary traumatic stress, Trauma, Trauma-informed schools, Youth mental health


High rates of trauma exposure among youth in the United States and the detrimental effects of trauma on students’ psychosocial and academic outcomes are well-established. Such findings have engendered the emergence of trauma-informed schools across the nation. While research regarding trauma-informed schools has understandably focused on the needs of students, shockingly little is known about teachers’ experiences in working with trauma-exposed students. In particular, very few studies have examined the relationship between teachers’ indirect exposure to student trauma and related symptoms of secondary traumatic stress (STS), as well as factors that may predict STS levels or explain variation in the development of STS. Given that prior research has documented the adverse impact of STS on mental and physical wellbeing, workplace performance, and career longevity in other professions, this dearth of knowledge regarding teachers’ experiences is concerning. Furthermore, STS is expected to be directly linked to a teacher’s attitude toward trauma-informed care (TIC) implementation (a likely indicator of TIC-aligned behavior and probability of supporting TIC). The relationship between STS and teachers’ attitudes toward TIC implementation in schools, however, has rarely been explored. Thus, the current study seeks to contribute to the extant research by examining the following aims: 1) characterize teachers’ indirect exposure to students’ traumatic experiences and STS, 2) investigate the relationship between indirect exposure to student trauma and STS, and test possible direct and moderating effects of individual-, interpersonal-, and organizational-level factors on STS development, and 3) explore the relationship between teachers’ attitudes toward TIC care in schools and STS, as well as TIC-relevant attitudes and individual-, interpersonal-, and organizational-level factors. Participants included a sample of 135 teachers (overall age range = 20 – 61 years or older; Median age range = 31 – 40 years; 83% female) recruited from school districts across four regions (Lawrence, KS; Kansas City, KS/MO; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA) in the United States. Results indicated that teachers were exposed to relatively high levels of trauma exposure and high levels of STS and PTSD. Indirect exposure to student trauma, self-efficacy, and direct personal trauma exposure predicted higher levels of STS while teaching commitment and social support at school predicted lower levels of STS (p < .05). Path analysis models revealed that STS, self-efficacy, social support at school, teacher commitment, and personal trauma exposure were differentially associated with domains of TIC-aligned attitudes among teachers (p < .05). Implications for supporting teachers’ resilience and role within trauma-informed schools are discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Allison A. Stiles


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

132 p.


Clinical psychology