Although childhood endangerment often precedes adult posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the mechanism from danger to disorder is unclear. We proposed a developmental process in which unprotected and uncomforted danger in childhood would be associated with “shortcuts” in information processing that, in adulthood, could result in PTSD if the adult experienced additional exposure to danger. Information processing was defined as the basic associative, dissociative, and integrative processes used by all humans. Individual differences in parents’ (or primary caregivers’) protective and comforting behavior were expected to force unprotected children to use psychological shortcuts that linked early trauma to later vulnerability for PTSD.
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