Posttraumatic stress disorder following assault: the role of cognitive processing, trauma memory, and appraisals

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003 Jun;71(3):419-31. doi: 10.1037/0022-006x.71.3.419.


Two studies of assault victims examined the roles of (a) disorganized trauma memories in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), (b) peritraumatic cognitive processing in the development of problematic memories and PTSD, and (c) ongoing dissociation and negative appraisals of memories in maintaining symptomatology. In the cross-sectional study (n = 81), comparisons of current, past, and no-PTSD groups suggested that peritraumatic cognitive processing is related to the development of disorganized memories and PTSD. Ongoing dissociation and negative appraisals served to maintain PTSD symptoms. The prospective study (n = 73) replicated these findings longitudinally. Cognitive and memory assessments completed within 12-weeks postassault predicted 6-month symptoms. Assault severity measures explained 22% of symptom variance; measures of cognitive processing, memory disorganization, and appraisals increased prediction accuracy to 71%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / psychology*