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Abstract

We examined the factor structure of measured posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in a sample of West African civilian refugees who had fled the civil war in Sierra Leone between 2001 and 2006. Given that such war-affected populations are common but understudied in trauma research, our objective was to examine the similarities and differences in this factor structure compared to prevailing models of PTSD symptom structure. As part of treatment services provided in refugee camps, refugees (2,140 women, 1,662 men, 1 unknown) from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea completed the 17 symptoms portion of the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS). We used exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to investigate whether there was a factor structure unique to this population, and made comparisons with the numbing, dysphoria, and aroused intrusion models. Results from the confirmatory analyses showed that the dysphoria model best fit the data (root mean square error of approximation [RMSEA] = .062); however, exploratory analyses revealed that 3 items loaded differently than theoretically expected. Psychological distress cross-loaded on reexperiencing and avoidance factors and physiological reactivity loaded on the avoidance factor instead of the reexperiencing factor. The sleep difficulties item was not well explained, generally; the highest loading (λ = .22) was on the dysphoria factor.