A Critical Evaluation of the Development of PTSD based on the Diathesis Stress Model

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The Diathesis-Stress Model

The diathesis-stress model associates the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder with an individual's susceptibility to the disease based on their reaction to stress and its source. McKeever and Huff (2003) propose three causative paths to explain the etiology of PTSD. These pathways include residual stress, environmental and biological variables (McKeever and Huff, 2003). The incidence of PTSD in one of the two children caught up in a school shooting contributes to their propensity to suffering from the ailment.

Environmental and Biological Factors

Thus, environmental and biological factors make the youngster more vulnerable to PTSD (McKeever and Huff, 2003). Ecological factors such as childhood experiences, the surrounding environment, and social relationships determine the ability of an individual to deal with stressors. Also, biological factors such as genetics and biologics such as poor nutrition and oxygen deprivation during birth also determine ability to counteract stress and to suffer from PTSD.

Predispositions and Variations

According to Paris (2000), the predispositions that affect the vulnerability to stress are the primary determinants of individual's likelihood to suffer from PTSD (Paris, 2000). These predispositions can account for traumatic exposures and individual variations (Paris, 2000). A study by Stein et al. (2002) determined that genetic and environmental influences mainly indicate the likelihood to develop stress and eventually the PTSD condition (Stein et al., 2002). Furthermore, individual variation explains how individuals may respond to various stressors, hence, develop or avoid the development of PTSD.

Childhood Adversity and Mental Disorders

A research by McLaughlin et al. (2010) also explains how childhood adversity may translate into mental disorders later in life. After experiencing stressful events in life, an individual may easily suffer from mental disorders such as PTSD due to harsh experiences during childhood (McLaughlin et al., 2010). Childhood adversity may occur to some children while young. Thus, children who experienced the condition are likely to suffer from mental disorders, unlike their counterparts who did not (McLaughlin et al., 2010).

Explaining the Difference

Therefore, in this case, the presence of ecological factors (predispositions or stressors), coupled with biological factors and individual variations, explains why one child is likely to develop PTSD while the other one does not. Despite going through similar experiences, the two children may have different biological factors and also individual variations. Also, they may have various abilities to deal and respond to the environmental forces that cause stress. Thus, one of them is likely to suffer from the PTSD condition.


McKeever, V. M., & Huff, M. E. (2003). A diathesis-stress model of posttraumatic stress disorder: Ecological, biological, and residual stress pathways. Review of General Psychology, 7(3), 237.

McLaughlin, K. A., Conron, K. J., Koenen, K. C., & Gilman, S. E. (2010). Childhood adversity, adult stressful life events, and risk of past-year psychiatric disorder: a test of the stress sensitization hypothesis in a population-based sample of adults. Psychological medicine, 40(10), 1647-1658.

Paris, J. (2000). Predispositions, personality traits, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 8(4), 175-183.

Stein, M. B., Jang, K. L., Taylor, S., Vernon, P. A., & Livesley, W. J. (2002). Genetic and environmental influences on trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: a twin study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(10), 1675-1681.

April 19, 2023

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