Date of Award

Spring 5-24-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Thane Erickson

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Jacob Bentley

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Lynette Bikos



First responders experience repeated trauma exposure within a unique environment that subjects them to multiple personal and professional stressors, discourages vulnerability, and disrupts sleep (Chamberlin & Green, 2010; Vargas de Barros et al., 2013). First responders have been shown to have higher rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as more frequent negative effects of their symptoms including adverse effects on their personal and professional functioning (Cheng et al., 2018; Gayton & Lovell, 2012). While first responders face significant risks to their mental health in the line of duty, there is insufficient population-specific research focused on these unique risks, the associated sleep disturbance, and any constructs that may be protective (Jones, 2017; Jones et al., 2018). Trait psychological resilience, defined as personal characteristics that facilitates adaptation to stress, has been shown to predict lower levels of mental and physical health outcomes (Burns & Anstey, 2010; Roden-Foreman et al., 2017; Straud et al., 2018). Trait resilience may combat the increased vulnerability to mental health outcomes and disturbed sleep in this population (Straud et al., 2018). In a sample of 127 first responders (14 females, 113 males) from the Pacific Northwest, two mediation models were tested. The first analysis evaluated a simple mediation model predicting sleep disturbance from trait resilience mediated by total posttraumatic cognitions. Second, a parallel moderated mediation model predicted sleep disturbance from trait resilience mediated by each the subcategories of posttraumatic cognitions (self, world, self-blame) with duty related stress as a moderator. Results from the simple mediation showed that posttraumatic cognitions mediated the relationship between resilience and sleep disturbance in first responders. In the second moderated mediation model, resilience negatively predicted all three posttraumatic cognitions subscales, and duty related stress amplified (moderated) the effect of resilience on cognitions about self-blame. Only posttraumatic cognitions about the self predicted higher sleep disturbance, and none of the posttraumatic cognitions subscales mediated effects on sleep, suggesting that general shared variance rather than specific types of posttraumatic cognitions was important for linking resilience and sleep. Interventions targeting resilience are discussed in the context of first responders.

Keywords: trait psychological resilience, fire fighter, self-blame, posttraumatic stress