, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 339-353
Date: 07 Sep 2012

Prospective Risk Factors for Adolescent PTSD: Sources of Differential Exposure and Differential Vulnerability

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There are two types of risk factors for developing PTSD: factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing a potentially traumatizing event and factors that increase the likelihood of developing symptoms following such events. Using prospective data over a two-year period from a large, diverse sample of urban adolescents (n = 1242, Mean age = 13.5), the current study differentiates these two sources of risk for developing PTSD in response to violence exposure. Five domains of potential risk and protective factors were examined: community context (e.g., neighborhood poverty), family risk (e.g., family conflict), behavioral maladjustment (e.g., internalizing symptoms), cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., low IQ), and interpersonal problems (e.g., low social support). Time 1 interpersonal violence history, externalizing behaviors, and association with deviant peers were the best predictors of subsequent violence, but did not further increase the likelihood of PTSD in response to violence. Race/ethnicity, thought disorder symptoms, and social problems were distinctly predictive of the development of PTSD following violence exposure. Among youth exposed to violence, Time 1 risk factors did not predict specific event features associated with elevated PTSD rates (e.g., parent as perpetrator), nor did interactions between Time 1 factors and event features add significantly to the prediction of PTSD diagnosis. Findings highlight areas for refinement in adolescent PTSD symptom measures and conceptualization, and provide direction for more targeted prevention and intervention efforts.

The PHDCN data collection was funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation