The impact of the developmental timing of trauma exposure on PTSD symptoms and psychosocial functioning among older adults.


Journal Article

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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ogle, CM; Rubin, DC; Siegler, IC

Published Date

  • November 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 49 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 2191 - 2200

PubMed ID

  • 23458662

Pubmed Central ID

  • 23458662

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-0599

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0031985


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States