Are Temperament Traits Predisposing Factors for Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Aims

Trauma is a necessary factor for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but it is not sufficient; not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD.  This study explores whether temperament is associated with exposure to trauma and risk of developing PTSD, and whether the risk of developing PTSD post-exposure to trauma is modified by temperament.

Methods

PTSD was present in 283 (6.92%) of 24 year olds. Individual temperament traits had weak to moderate stability over time. There was evidence that increased Intensity (of emotions) on the Carey scale at 6 months, and Emotionality (distress) on the EAS at 38 months were associated with higher odds of trauma occurring (Emotionality adjusted OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.13- 1.24, p value <0.001) and PTSD symptoms at age 24 (Emotionality adjusted OR 1.22 95% CI 1.05- 1.42, p value 0.009).  A Difficult temperament cluster derived from the Carey variables when the child was 6 months old was also associated with an increased risk of trauma and PTSD (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.04- 1.24, p value 0.006), but not24 months. In addition, Mood and Activity on the Carey scale were associated with trauma, and Shyness on the EAS had an inverse relationship with trauma.  Neither Emotionality nor Mood moderated trauma or PTSD.

Results

PTSD was present in 283 (6.92%) of 24 year olds. Individual temperament traits had weak to moderate stability over time. There was evidence that increased Intensity (of emotions) on the Carey scale at 6 months, and Emotionality (distress) on the EAS at 38 months were associated with higher odds of trauma occurring (Emotionality adjusted OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.13- 1.24, p value <0.001) and PTSD symptoms at age 24 (Emotionality adjusted OR 1.22 95% CI 1.05- 1.42, p value 0.009).  A Difficult temperament cluster derived from the Carey variables when the child was 6 months old was also associated with an increased risk of trauma and PTSD (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.04- 1.24, p value 0.006), but not24 months. In addition, Mood and Activity on the Carey scale were associated with trauma, and Shyness on the EAS had an inverse relationship with trauma.  Neither Emotionality nor Mood moderated trauma or PTSD.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that temperament traits related to intense, distressing emotions are associated with increased likelihood of both subsequent trauma and PTSD, and increase our understanding of early childhood pre-trauma factors that predispose individuals to developing PTSD in adulthood.

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