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OSF Preprints




Dimensional models of psychopathology suggest that the causes and consequences of psychopathology are attributable to a combination of syndrome specific and transdiagnostic features. There is considerable evidence that trauma exposure confers risk for a wide range of psychiatric conditions, yet no previous work has specifically examined the higher-order effects of trauma exposure within a structural model. We examined transdiagnostic and PTSD-specific associations with multiple forms of trauma exposure within a nation-wide sample (N = 1,649; 50% female) of military Veterans over-selected for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A higher-order Distress variable was estimated using PTSD, major depressive disorder (MDD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms as indicators. A structural equation model spanning three measurement time points over an average of 3.85 years was then used to examine the unique roles of higher-order Distress and PTSD residual variance in accounting for the relations between trauma exposure and psychosocial impairment. Results suggest that the association between trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms is primarily mediated by higher-order Distress, but that PTSD severity does have a significant association with trauma exposure independent of Distress. Both higher-order Distress and PTSD-specific variance were necessary to account for the association between trauma exposure and future functional impairment. This work suggests there may be shared etiology linking cumulative trauma exposure and a range of internalizing symptoms. Continued application of higher-order dimensional models is needed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the consequences of trauma exposure.


© 2023 Authors.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Original Publication Citation

Crowe, M. L., Hawn, S. E., Wolf, E. J., Keane, T. M., & Marx, B. P. (2023). Trauma exposure and transdiagnostic distress: Examining shared and PTSD-specific associations. OSF Preprints, 1-33.