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A Test of Adolescent Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms as Prospective Predictors of Type of Trauma Exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


  • This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (F31AA020698 and AA016213).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Moira Haller, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, 950 S. McAllister, P.O. Box 871104, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104. E-mail:


The present study utilized longitudinal data from a high-risk community sample (N = 377; 166 trauma-exposed; 202 males; 175 females; 73% non-Hispanic Caucasian) to test pretrauma measures of adolescent internalizing and externalizing symptoms as unique prospective predictors of type of trauma exposure and PTSD over and above the influence of correlated family adversity (a composite of family conflict, stress, and parental psychopathology). Data were analyzed with logistic and multinomial logistic regressions. Results indicated that females, but not males, with higher levels of internalizing (OR = 2.91) and externalizing (OR = 2.37) symptoms during adolescence were significantly more likely to be exposed to assaultive violence (over and above family adversity). In fact, males with higher levels of internalizing symptoms were significantly less likely to be exposed to assaultive violence (OR = 0.54). Neither internalizing nor externalizing symptoms uniquely predicted exposure to traumatic events that did not involve assaultive violence. Among trauma-exposed participants, the unique association between internalizing symptoms and later PTSD yielded an odds ratio of 1.79 (p = .07) over and above the influences of family adversity, type of trauma exposure, and gender. Assaultive violence exposure fully mediated the association between females’ externalizing symptoms and future PTSD. Findings may help inform the prevention of both assaultive violence exposure and PTSD.