Researchers have speculated that negative life events are more common in troubled neighborhoods, amplifying adverse effects on health. Using a clustered representative sample of Chicago residents (2001-03; n?=?3,105) from the Chicago Community Adult Health Survey, we provide the first documentation that negative life events are highly geographically clustered compared to health outcomes. Associations between neighborhood context and negative life events were also found to vary by event type. We then demonstrate the power of a contextualized approach by testing path models in which life events mediate the relation between neighborhood characteristics and health outcomes, including self-rated health, anxiety, and depression. The indirect paths between neighborhood conditions and health through negative life event exposure are highly significant and large compared to the direct paths from neighborhood conditions to health. Our results indicate that neighborhood conditions can have acute as well as chronic effects on health, and that negative life events are a powerful mechanism by which context may influence health.
Objectives: The present study examined the impact of cumulative trauma exposure on current posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity in a nonclinical sample of adults in their 60s. The predictive utility of cumulative trauma exposure was compared to other known predictors of PTSD, including trauma severity, personality traits, social support, and event centrality. Method: Community-dwelling adults (n = 2515) from the crest of the Baby Boom generation completed the Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire, the PTSD Checklist, the NEO Personality Inventory, the Centrality of Event Scale, and rated their current social support. Results: Cumulative trauma exposure predicted greater PTSD symptom severity in hierarchical regression analyses consistent with a dose-response model. Neuroticism and event centrality also emerged as robust predictors of PTSD symptom severity. In contrast, the severity of individuals single most distressing life event, as measured by self-report ratings of the A1 PTSD diagnostic criterion, did not add explanatory variance to the model. Analyses concerning event categories revealed that cumulative exposure to childhood violence and adulthood physical assaults were most strongly associated with PTSD symptom severity in older adulthood. Moreover, cumulative self-oriented events accounted for a larger percentage of variance in symptom severity compared to events directed at others. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the cumulative impact of exposure to traumatic events throughout the life course contributes significantly to posttraumatic stress in older adulthood above and beyond other known predictors of PTSD.
Using longitudinal data, the present study examined change in midlife neuroticism following trauma exposure. Our primary analyses included 670 participants (Mage = 60.55; 65.22% male, 99.70% Caucasian) who completed the NEO Personality Inventory at ages 42 and 50 and reported their lifetime exposure to traumatic events approximately 10 years later. No differences in pre- and post-trauma neuroticism scores were found among individuals who experienced all of their lifetime traumas in the interval between the personality assessments. Results were instead consistent with normative age-related declines in neuroticism throughout adulthood. Furthermore, longitudinal changes in neuroticism scores did not differ between individuals with and without histories of midlife trauma exposure. Examination of change in neuroticism following life-threatening traumas yielded a comparable pattern of results. Analysis of facet-level scores largely replicated findings from the domain scores. Overall, our findings suggest that neuroticism does not reliably change following exposure to traumatic events in middle adulthood. Supplemental analyses indicated that individuals exposed to life-threatening traumas in childhood or adolescence reported higher midlife neuroticism than individuals who experienced severe traumas in adulthood. Life-threatening traumatic events encountered early in life may have a more pronounced impact on adulthood personality than recent traumatic events.
The present study examined the specificity of autobiographical memory in adolescents and adults with versus without child sexual abuse (CSA) histories. Eighty-five participants, approximately half of whom per age group had experienced CSA, were tested on the autobiographical memory interview. Individual difference measures, including those for trauma-related psychopathology, were also administered. Findings revealed developmental differences in the relation between autobiographical memory specificity and CSA. Even with depression statistically controlled, reduced memory specificity in CSA victims relative to controls was observed among adolescents but not among adults. A higher number of posttraumatic stress disorder criteria met predicted more specific childhood memories in participants who reported CSA as their most traumatic life event. These findings contribute to the scientific understanding of childhood trauma and autobiographical memory functioning and underscore the importance of considering the role of age and degree of traumatization within the study of autobiographical memory.
The present study examined the impact of the developmental timing of trauma exposure on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and psychosocial functioning in a large sample of community-dwelling older adults (N = 1,995). Specifically, we investigated whether the negative consequences of exposure to traumatic events were greater for traumas experienced during childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, midlife, or older adulthood. Each of these developmental periods is characterized by age-related changes in cognitive and social processes that may influence psychological adjustment following trauma exposure. Results revealed that older adults who experienced their currently most distressing traumatic event during childhood exhibited more severe symptoms of PTSD and lower subjective happiness compared with older adults who experienced their most distressing trauma after the transition to adulthood. Similar findings emerged for measures of social support and coping ability. The differential effects of childhood compared with later life traumas were not fully explained by differences in cumulative trauma exposure or by differences in the objective and subjective characteristics of the events. Our findings demonstrate the enduring nature of traumatic events encountered early in the life course and underscore the importance of examining the developmental context of trauma exposure in investigations of the long-term consequences of traumatic experiences.
The purpose of the present research was to examine Deese-Roediger-McDermott false memory for trauma-related and nontrauma-related lists in adolescents and adults with and without documented histories of child sexual abuse (CSA). Individual differences in psychopathology and adult attachment were also explored. Participants were administered free recall and recognition tests after hearing CSA, negative, neutral, and positive Deese-Roediger-McDermott lists. In free recall, CSA and negative lists produced the most false memory. In sharp contrast, for recognition, CSA lists enjoyed the highest d scores. CSA-group adolescents who evinced greater posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms had higher rates of false memory compared to (a) non-CSA group adolescents with higher PTSD symptom scores (free recall), and (b) CSA-group adolescents with lower PTSD symptom scores (recognition). Regression analyses revealed that individuals with higher PTSD scores and greater fearful-avoidant attachment tendencies showed less proficient memory monitoring for CSA lists. Implications for trauma and memory development and for translational research are discussed.
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