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Can Developmental Trauma Disorder be Distinguished from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? A Confirmatory Factor Analytic Test of Four Structural Models

Ford, Julian D.; Shevlin, Mark; Karatzias, Thanos; Charak, Ruby; Spinazzola, Joseph


Julian D. Ford

Mark Shevlin

Ruby Charak

Joseph Spinazzola


Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) is a proposed child psychopathology diagnosis with emotion/somatic, attention/behavioral, and self/relational dysregulation symptoms extending beyond posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) tested four structural models with structured interview data for trauma history, PTSD, and DTD with 507 children receiving mental health or pediatric care ( N=162, 32% diagnosed with DTD; N=176; 35% with PTSD; N=169, 33% with neither). A unidimensional model with a single latent variable had unacceptable fit (RMSEA=.094; CFI=.844). Compared to a model with PTSD and DTD as correlated first-order latent variables, a multidimensional model with correlated latent variables corresponding to the PTSD and DTD symptom clusters (Dc 2 =105.62, Ddf=14, p < .001) and a hierarchical variant with correlated second order DTD and PTSD latent variables (Dc 2 =48.10, Ddf=6, p < .001) fit the data better. The non-hierarchical multidimensional model was superior to the hierarchical variant (Dc 2 =66.05, Ddf=8, p < .001). Stronger latent variable inter-correlations within PTSD and DTD domains than across domains, suggested that DTD and PTSD are distinguishable despite their inter-correlation. Exposure to family violence was the primary correlate of both the DTD and PTSD second-order latent variables. Results indicate that children’s trauma-related symptoms involve six inter-correlated domains extend beyond PTSD’s symptoms (i.e., re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal) to include DTD symptoms of emotional, cognitive-behavioral, and self-relational dysregulation. The inter-relationship of the DTD and PTSD latent variables suggest that DTD may constitute a component within a complex PTSD diagnosis paralleling the new adult CPTSD diagnosis.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 2, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 19, 2022
Publication Date 2022-09
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Apr 20, 2023
Print ISSN 2730-7166
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 50
Pages 1207-1218
Keywords trauma; developmental; PTSD; children; adolescents; confirmatory factor analysis
Public URL


Can Developmental Trauma Disorder Be Distinguished From Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? A Confirmatory Factor Analytic Test Of Four Structural Models (accepted version) (383 Kb)

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