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New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

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Read about the latest research published in Clinical Psychological Science.

The Frequency and Impact of Exposure to Potentially Traumatic Events Over the Life Course

Christin M. Ogle, David C. Rubin, Dorthe Berntsen, and Ilene C. Siegler

How does the timing and impact of traumatic events differ across the lifespan? Participants between the ages of 55 and 69 reported the number of times and the age at which they experienced traumatic events, the extent to which the trauma formed a central component of their identity, and their symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The researchers found that certain types of traumas were more likely to occur in different stages of life and that events that occurred with more frequency earlier in life were associated with greater severity of PTSD. These findings add to our knowledge of the differential impact of traumatic events experienced throughout the lifespan.

Measuring the Severity of Negative and Traumatic Events

David C. Rubin and Nicole Feeling

Experiencing an extreme stressor is thought to be prerequisite for the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants with and without PTSD provided narrative descriptions of traumatic events they had experienced. Event severity was assessed by placing the events on a standard normed scale, by placing the events into five bins based on their severity, or by averaging the events’ effects on several areas of the participants’ lives. Although all three methods of assessing event severity were highly correlated, there was no correlation between event severity and PTSD severity, a finding that has important implications for the theoretical underpinnings guiding the current diagnosis of PTSD.

Mood Management Intervention in an Internet Stop Smoking Randomized Controlled Trial Does Not Prevent Depression: A Cautionary Tale

Stephen M. Schueller, Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, and Ricardo F. Muñoz

Can combining a mood-management intervention within an Internet-based smoking-cessation program help reduce the incidence of depression in smokers? Smokers identified as low or high risk for experiencing a major depressive episode (MDE) participated in an online smoking-cessation program that either did or did not include a mood-management component. Participants reported symptoms associated with depression at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months. Mood-management intervention did not reduce the incidence of MDEs in the overall sample and actually increased MDEs in high-risk participants. These findings suggest that a greater examination of the effects of mood-management interventions is needed.

War Zone Stress Interacts With the 5-HTTLPR Polymorphism to Predict the Development of Sustained Attention for Negative Emotion Stimuli in Soldiers Returning From Iraq

Seth G. Disner, Christopher G. Beevers, Han-Joo Lee, Robert E. Ferrell, Ahmad R. Hariri, and Michael J. Telch

Some versions of the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR are associated with increased vulnerability to environmental influences. Soldiers with differing 5-HTTLPR genotypes were assessed before and after deployment for attentional biases for emotional stimuli, for their level of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, and for experiences of war zone stressors. Soldiers with the homozygous short — but not the heterozygous or homozygous long — variant of the polymorphism developed an attention bias toward negative stimuli as a function of their war zone stress. This indicates that soldiers with the homozygous short allele are particularly vulnerable to environmental stress and may be in more danger of developing later affective psychopathology.