Early adversity, adult lifestyle, and posttraumatic stress disorder in a military sample
- Author(s): Clint, Edward K;
- Fessler, Daniel MT
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2022.19
Abstract Early adversity is considered a major risk factor for adult posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Simultaneously, however, early adversity is also known to contribute to psychological resilience, and, indeed, some high-adversity groups do not display elevated PTSD risk. We explored correlates of PTSD in the Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers military dataset to evaluate contrasting accounts of the relationship between early adversity and PTSD. The standard deficit model depicts ontogeny as inherently vulnerable to insult, such that early adversity yields a less robust adult phenotype. A complementary life history theory account holds that adverse early experiences cue a fast life history orientation that reduces investment in maintenance, yielding an adult phenotype less able to recover from trauma. An opposing life history theory account holds that early adversity cues expectations of an adverse adult environment, adaptively reducing reactivity to adverse events. We use principal component analysis to extract a latent variable representing several childhood experiences and multiple lifestyle factors that plausibly proxy life history orientation. After correcting for covariates, we find a strong positive influence of such proxies on PTSD risk, suggesting that early adversity may indeed increase risk for PTSD, and thus that either the standard deficit model, the reduced maintenance account or a combination are correct.