Insecure Adult Attachment Style and PTSD Symptom Severity among Firefighters: The Role of Distress Tolerance. Academic Article uri icon


  • Trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms among firefighters are prevalent and well-documented. Insecure adult attachment style (AAS) and distress tolerance (DT) present two factors with demonstrated relevance to the etiology and maintenance of PTSD. Few studies have examined these constructs in relation to PTSD symptomatology among firefighter populations. The present investigation examined the indirect effect of insecure romantic AAS (i.e., anxious AAS, avoidant AAS) on PTSD symptom severity through DT among firefighters. Exploratory analyses examined this model with each of the PTSD symptom clusters as outcomes. The sample was comprised of 105 firefighters (Mage=40.43, SD=9.15, 95.2% male) recruited from various departments in the southern U.S. An indirect effect was calculated using 10,000 bootstrapped samples. Indirect effects models in the primary analyses were significant when both anxious AAS (=.20, SE=.10, CI=.06-.43) and avoidant AAS (=.28, SE=.12, CI=.08-.54) were evaluated as predictors. Effects were evident after accounting for gender, relationship status, years of fire service, and trauma load (i.e., number of potentially traumatic event types experienced). Exploratory analyses revealed that anxious and avoidant AAS are both indirectly related to the PTSD intrusion, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity symptom clusters through DT. Anxious AAS also demonstrated an indirect association with PTSD avoidance symptoms through DT. Attachment styles may influence PTSD symptoms among firefighters through a firefighter's perceived ability to withstand emotional distress. This line of inquiry has potential to inform specialized intervention programs for firefighters. Clinical and empirical implications are discussed.

published proceedings

  • J Aggress Maltreat Trauma

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Leonard, S. J., Zegel, M., Venta, A., & Vujanovic, A. A.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Leonard, Samuel J||Zegel, Maya||Venta, Amanda||Vujanovic, Anka A

publication date

  • April 2023