Witnessing the Homicide of a Loved One: The Effect of Witnessing a Homicide on PTSD Symptom Severity and the Moderating Role of Relationship to Victim
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Although grief is a natural reaction after losing someone close, violent and unexpected deaths like suicides can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many risk factors for PTSD were identified in the past; yet, there is still no complete framework to understand PTSD following a homicide. This study aimed to investigate the predictive effect of witnessing on PTSD symptom severity and the possible moderating role of relationship to the victim on this association. It was hypothesized that witnessing would increase PTSD and intrusive symptom severity, and losing someone closer would increase the strength of this relationship. 901 individuals (680 females, 220 males) from the United Kingdom participated in the study. Participants were assigned to either witnessing or not witnessing group. Likewise, for relationship to the victim, there were two groups as nuclear family members and others. Their PTSD symptom severity was measured with the Impact of Event Scale. Results showed that witnessing did not predict intrusive symptom severity, and did predict PTSD symptom severity with a small effect size. Similarly, closeness to the victim did not moderate the relationship between witnessing and intrusive symptom severity whereas it could moderate the association between witnessing and PTSD symptom severity, but in the opposite direction of what was expected; the association was stronger for losing a more distant person with a small effect size. In light of these results, limitations and implications were discussed, and several suggestions for future studies were shared. Since this study is the first in the literature looking at these associations, it has an important contribution to the literature of PTSD following a homicide.