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Behav Res Ther. 2000 Feb;38(2):203-14.

Dimensionality of posttraumatic stress symptoms: a confirmatory factor analysis of DSM-IV symptom clusters and other symptom models.

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Department of Psychology, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Recent exploratory [Taylor, S., Kuch, K., Koch, W. J., Crockett, D. J., & Passey, G. (1998). The structure of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107, 154-160.] and confirmatory [Buckley, T. C., Blanchard, E. B., & Hickling, E. J. (1998). A confirmatory factor analysis of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36, 1091-1099; King, D. W., Leskin, G. A., King, L. A., & Weathers, F. W. (1998). Confirmatory factor analysis of the clinician-administered PTSD scale: evidence for the dimensionality of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Assessment, 10, 90-96.] factor analytic investigations suggest that the three symptom clusters of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.] may not provide the best conceptualization of symptom dimensionality. However, the alternative models have not been in agreement, nor have they been compared against each other or models based on the DSM-IV. The purpose of the present investigation was to test a series of dimensional models suggested by these recent factor analytic investigations and the DSM-IV. Using data collected with the PTSD Checklist--Civilian Version [Weathers, F. W., Litz, B. T., Huska, J. A., & Keane, T. M. (1994). PCL-C for DSM-IV. Boston: National Center for PTSD--Behavioral Science Division.] from 349 referrals to a primary care medical clinic, we used confirmatory factor analysis to evaluate a: (1) hierarchical four-factor model, (2) four-factor intercorrelated model, (3) hierarchical three-factor model, (4) three-factor intercorrelated model, and (5) hierarchical two-factor model. The hierarchical four-factor model (comprising four first-order factors corresponding to reexperiencing, avoidance, numbing, and hyperarousal all subsumed by a higher-order general factor) provided the best overall fit to the data; although, all models met some standards specified for good model fit. More research is needed to establish the dimensional nature of PTSD symptoms and to assess whether identified dimensions differ as a function of the trauma experience. Implications for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment are also discussed.

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