Predictors of PTSD among Adults

By Brock, Stephen E. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Predictors of PTSD among Adults


Brock, Stephen E., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Summarized by Calissia Thomas Tasby, Predoctoral Intern, Psychological & Social Services, APPIC Internship Site, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, TX

In the past decade, studies have been conducted to specifically examine the role certain variables play in contributing to PTSD in adults. Since more than half of the United States population is exposed to a traumatic event, but only approximately 7% actually develop PTSD, the importance placed on determining why the remaining 43% do not develop PTSD is warranted (Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995). In examining these phenomena, most reviews, with the exception of Brewin, Andrews, and Valentine (2000), failed to conduct a comprehensive review of the PTSD literature or use quantitative measures (effect size [ES]; Emery, Emery, Shama, Quiana, & Jassani, 1991; Fontana & Rosenheck, 1994; Green, 1994). This lack of comprehensive and quantitative research prompted the study by Ozer, Best, Lipsey, and Weiss (2003) summarized below.

In a meta-analysis conducted through a literature review examining symptoms predictive of PTSD, Ozer et al. (2003) identified 2,647 articles that related to PTSD, of which 476 met the inclusion criteria. Studies that did not assess all of the clusters of PTSD symptoms as defined in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) were eliminated leaving 68 studies to be included in the present study. Of the 68 studies, all met criteria under seven predictors of PTSD in adults (ages 18 and over) that included:

(a) a history of at least one other trauma prior to the index traumatic event, (b) psychological adjustment prior to the traumatic event, (c) family history of psychopathology, (d) perceived life threat during the traumatic event, (e) perceived social support following the traumatic event, (f) peritraumatic emotionality-high levels of emotion during or in the immediate aftermath of the traumatic event, and (g) peritraumatic dissociation-dissociative experiences during or in the immediate aftermath of the traumatic event. (Ozer et al, 2003, p. 55)

Results of the analysis using the seven criteria above yielded significant effect sizes. Family history, prior trauma, and prior adjustment produced the smallest effect size (weighted r = .

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