BACKGROUND: Previous studies have suggested an association between personality traits and post-traumatic stress. These studies either focused exclusively on military veterans or assessed personality traits after the traumatic event. This study investigates to what extent personality traits as assessed before the traumatic experience predict post-traumatic stress in civilians experiencing air attacks at the end of the exposure to stressful events and 1 year later. METHOD: The revised version of the NEO Personality Inventory was administered to 70 students in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In 1999, 1 or 2 years after the assessment, all students were exposed to air attacks for 11 weeks. At the end of the attacks and 1 year later post-traumatic stress was measured on the Impact of Event Scale. RESULTS: Pre-trauma personality predicted 13% of the variance of intrusion scores 1 year after the attacks. There was no significant correlation between personality traits and subsequent avoidance scores at any point of time. CONCLUSIONS: Personality traits that are assessed before a traumatic event can, to a limited extent, predict intrusive symptoms in a non-clinical sample of civilians. Pre-trauma assessments of personality might be less strongly associated with post-traumatic stress than personality traits obtained after the traumatic event.
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