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The Aetiology of Post-traumatic Morbidity: Predisposing, Precipitating and Perpetuating Factors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Alexander C. McFarlane*
Department of Psychiatry, The Flinders University of South Australia, Bedford Park, South Australia 5042


A group of 469 firefighters were studied 4, 11 and 29 months after having an extreme exposure to a bushfire disaster. The relative importance of the impact of the disaster, personality and ways of coping were investigated as determinants of post-traumatic morbidity. Neuroticism and a past history of treatment for a psychological disorder were better predictors of post-traumatic morbidity than the degree of exposure to the disaster or the losses sustained. These results raise doubts about the postulated central aetiological role a traumatic event plays in the onset of morbidity.

Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1989 

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