Invariance of the Construct of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review

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We conducted a systematic review of studies that have evaluated invariance of the construct of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to summarize their conclusions related to invariance/noninvariance and sources of noninvariance. In November 2017, we searched Pubmed, PSYCINFO, PILOTS Web of Science, CINAHL, Medline, and Psychological and Behavioral Science Collection for abstracts and articles with these inclusionary criteria: peer-reviewed, including DSM-IV or DSM-5 PTSD invariance as a main study aim, use of multigroup confirmatory factor analyses, and use of an independent PTSD instrument or module. In total, 45 articles out of 1,169 initially identified abstracts met inclusion criteria. Research assistants then followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to complete a secondary search and independently extract data. Results indicated that DSM-IV dysphoric arousal and DSM-5 hybrid model factors demonstrated the most stability; sources of instability were some intrusion (distress to trauma cues), dysphoria/numbing (traumatic amnesia, foreshortened future, emotional numbness, detachment), and arousal (hypervigilance) items. The PTSD Checklist and PTSD Reaction Index were most often used to assess PTSD in studies investigating its invariance; however, these measures demonstrated partial conceptual equivalence of PTSD across subgroups. Instead, clinician-administered measures demonstrated more conceptual equivalence across subgroups. Age, gender, cultural/linguistic factors, and sample diversity had the least moderating effect on PTSD's symptom structure. Our review demonstrates the need to examine invariance of the PTSD construct following recommended guidelines for each empirical and clinical trial study to draw meaningful multigroup comparative conclusions.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Traumatic Stress