Because of the lasting impact that traumatic family events can have on psychological well-being, students who present for services at college counseling centers may be experiencing problems and symptoms associated with earlier trauma. Many college counseling centers utilize the Counseling Concerns Survey developed by the Research Consortium of Counseling and Psychological Services in Higher Education (1991) and the Outcome Questionnaire-45 (OQ-45; Lambert et al., 1996) as intake instruments to assess students who present for counseling. The major components of the Counseling Concerns Survey are the 18-item Family Experiences Questionnaire, which identifies history of family trauma, and the 42-item Presenting Problems List, which assesses students' major areas of distress. The OQ-45 measures symptom severity. While it is generally assumed that family trauma during childhood and adolescence can negatively impact future mental health and well-being, it has been unclear how specific traumatic family experiences reported on the Family Experiences Questionnaire are related to specific presenting problems as listed on the Presenting Problems List or symptom severity as measured by the OQ-45. The purpose of this study was to examine this relationship and to ascertain discernible patterns. Data from the intake instruments of 20,495 students who sought counseling services at a large western U.S. university from 1997 to 2007 was analyzed. Logistic regression of each of the 18 traumatic family history experiences was performed, using the initial OQ-45 score, the 42 Presenting Problems List items, and five Presenting Problems List factors (Draper, Jennings, & Baron, 2003) as "predictors" of the types of trauma the students might have experienced. Results showed that although family trauma of a variety of types was associated with symptom severity and various presenting problems, there did not seem to be an overall discernible pattern. The results suggest that trauma seems to have a diffuse association with presenting problems and symptom severity. However, some family traumas are associated with a greater number of presenting problems, and these traumas were identified.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





family trauma, college counseling, Counseling Concerns Survey, Presenting Problems List, Family Experiences Questionnaire, OQ-45, Outcome Questionnaire-45