Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Structure in Injured Children: Functional Impairment and Depression Symptoms in a Confirmatory Factor Analysis


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Objective: To examine the factor structure of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in children and adolescents who have experienced an acute single-incident trauma, associations between PTSD symptom clusters and functional impairment, and the specificity of PTSD symptoms in relation to depression and general distress. Method: Examined PTSD symptom structure in two samples of children (8 to 17 years of age) assessed an average of 6 months after unintentional injury: (1) a combined dataset of 479 children assessed with a PTSD symptom checklist, and (2) a sample of 204 children assessed via a standardized clinical interview. We evaluated the fit of six alternative models for the factor structure of PTSD symptoms, and the association of PTS symptom clusters with indicators of functional impairment. We then evaluated three models for the structure of PTSD and depression symptoms jointly, to examine specificity of PTSD versus general distress or mood symptoms. Results: In both samples, the DSM-IV 3-factor model fit the data reasonably well. Two alternative four-factor models fit the data very well: one that separates effortful avoidance from emotional numbing, and one that separates PTSD-specific symptoms from general emotional distress. Effortful avoidance and dysphoria symptoms were most consistently associated with impairment. The best-fitting model for PTSD and depression symptom clusters had three factors: PTSD-specific, depression-specific, and general dysphoria symptoms. Conclusions: The DSM-IV model for PTSD symptom categories was a reasonable fit for these child data, but several alternative models fit equally well or better, and suggest potential improvements to the current diagnostic criteria for PTSD in children.

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