Do Previous Traumas Affect Students’ Perception of Safety, Violence, and Handguns on Campus?

Most people experience traumas at some point in their lives, such as unexpected death of someone close or unwanted sexual attention.  This study assesses relations between lifetime traumas, perceived stress, happiness, and concerns about on-campus victimization.  Participants were 118 undergraduates (mean age = 22.81; 77% female, 92% Caucasian) who completed online surveys.  Partial correlations (controlling for age) indicated that a greater number of traumatic events was related to more stress and less happiness.  Contrary to expectations, participants who experienced more traumatic events reported feeling equally safe on campus and were not more concerned about being a victim of violence on campus. Interestingly, they would be more likely to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun on campus if this was legal and they believe a higher percentage of other students would do the same (all r’s > + or – .22 to .36, all p’s < .05).  Overall, this research indicates that students who experience more traumas feel safe on campus, but previous traumas had a negative impact on overall stress and happiness, which in turn, may lead these individuals to strive for personal ways to protect themselves.

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