The Criterion A problem revisited: controversies and challenges in defining and measuring psychological trauma

J Trauma Stress. 2007 Apr;20(2):107-21. doi: 10.1002/jts.20210.


The Criterion A problem in the field of traumatic stress refers to the stressor criterion for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and involves a number of fundamental issues regarding the definition and measurement of psychological trauma. These issues first emerged with the introduction of PTSD as a diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM-III; American Psychiatric Association, 1980) and continue to generate considerable controversy. In this article, the authors provide an update on the Criterion A problem, with particular emphasis on the evolution of the DSM definition of the stressor criterion and the ongoing debate regarding broad versus narrow conceptualizations of traumatic events.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / psychology
  • Terminology as Topic