The role of attribution of trauma responsibility in posttraumatic stress disorder following motor vehicle accidents

Depress Anxiety. 2013 May;30(5):483-8. doi: 10.1002/da.22006. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


Background: Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are highly prevalent and associated with adverse psychological outcomes.

Methods: The present study used data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication (NCS-R) to examine the association between injury, role in an MVA (driver/nondriver), attributions of responsibility for the accident, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amongst 165 MVA survivors.

Results: Findings indicated that drivers with external attributions of the MVA (i.e. who considered others to be at fault for the MVA) were significantly more likely to have a diagnosis of PTSD than drivers with internal attributions (i.e. considering themselves to be at fault) and nondrivers with external attributions of the accident. Further, serious injury sustained in the accident was related to greater likelihood of developing PTSD.

Conclusions: External attributions for the MVA among drivers, as well as serious injury during the accident, were related to higher rates of PTSD. The present findings have implications for models that highlight the importance of posttraumatic cognitions in contributing to mental health following a traumatic event.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data