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Cian Dabrowski, Jeffrey M. Lating, Ph.D., Martin F. Sherman, Ph.D., Matthew W. Kirkhart, Ph.D.

An Exploratory Factor Analysis of Emotional Reactions in Canadian Steelworkers Following a Traumatic Incident

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Industrial workers are often exposed to critical incidents, and as a consequence of these exposures they have been noted to have elevated rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) (Blake, Lating, Sherman, & Kirkhart, 2013; Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2018). This type of critical incident exposure and its consequences was previously studied in a unique sample of 182 United Steelworkers (USW) from Sudbury, Canada. More specifically, these USW members were found to have a rate of probable PTSD of 27.5% when assessed with the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5; Weathers, Litz, Keane, Palmieri, Marx, & Schnurr, 2013), a rate of probable MDD of 22.5% when assessed with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9; Kroenke, Spitzer, & Williams, 2001), and a rate of 14.3% for individuals from this sample with both PTSD and MDD (Breen, 2017). The purpose of this current study is to utilize exploratory factor analyses (EFA) to assess the structure of the item responses from the PCL-5 and the PHQ-9.

Part of the rationale for doing the EFA is that the PTSD diagnostic criteria have changed considerably since their introduction as a disorder in 1980 in DSM-III (North, Suris, Smith, & King, 2016). Specifically, the number and groupings of symptoms have changed in the past two editions of the DSM. Despite the diagnostic criteria developments, there remains, however, no consensus regarding how symptoms of PTSD should be categorized. While previous research has studied PTSD or MDD following job-related trauma, no study has assessed the underlying factor structure of items on the PCL-5 and PHQ-9 to aggregately explore these constructs. Therefore, the current study will use EFA to assess first the item factors that emerge from USW sample’s responses to the PCL-5. A second separate EFA will then examine item responses when the PCL-5 and PHQ-9, which have been shown to be highly correlated, are assessed together (Demirchyan, Goenjian, & Khachadourian, 2015). 

Due to its exploratory nature, this study will make no explicit hypotheses regarding the specific structure of the factors. However, the results of this study may help to define the structure of items that could predict probable PTSD or MDD and help those suffering after a traumatic event. More specifically, conducting an EFA on these items and examining the resulting structure may help to define symptoms or groupings most significant to the diagnosis of PTSD, leading to more accurate diagnosing of individuals following a traumatic event or possibly providing the impetus for an assessment questionnaire. 

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