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J Pers Disord. 2003 Dec;17(6):537-49.

Personality factors and posttraumatic stress: associations in civilians one year after air attacks.

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School of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Institute of Mental Health, Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro. dlecic@eunet.yu


There is an ongoing debate on which risk factors for developing posttraumatic stress symptoms are more important--personality traits reflecting vulnerability, previous stressful experiences or characteristics of the traumatic event. In this study, posttraumatic stress symptoms and their relationship with personality traits, previous stressful experiences and exposure to stressful events during air attacks in Yugoslavia were investigated. The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI; Millon, 1983), Impact of Events Scale (IES; Horowitz, Wilner, & Alvarez, 1979), Life Stressor Checklist Revised (LSCL-R; Wolfe & Kimerling, 1997), and List of Stressors were administered to a homogeneous group of medical students 1 year after the attacks. In multiple regression analyses, compulsive and passive-aggressive personality traits and a higher level of exposure to stressors during air attacks independently predicted the degree of intrusion symptoms. Avoidance symptoms were predicted by avoidant personality traits and a higher exposure to stressors both previously in life and during the attacks. In the next step, we tested in analyses of variance whether personality traits, previous stressful experiences, and stressful events during attacks as independent variables interact in predicting intrusion and avoidance symptoms. For this, students were clustered into three groups depending on their predominant personality traits. In addition to direct predictive effects, there were significant interaction effects in predicting both intrusion and avoidance. The findings suggest that each of the tested factors, i.e., personality traits, previous stressful experiences, and exposure to traumatic events may have an independent and direct influence on developing posttraumatic stress. However, the effect of these factors cannot just be added up. Rather, the factors interact in their impact on posttraumatic stress symptoms. Bigger samples and longitudinal designs will be required to understand precisely how different personality traits influence response to stressful events.

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