People differ markedly in their risk for developing posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) after exposure to traumatic events. Twin studies suggest that the trauma-PTSS relationship is moderated by genetic and environmental influences. The present study tested for specific types of genetic and environmental interaction effects on PTSS. A sample of 222 monozygotic and 184 dizygotic twin pairs reported on lifetime frequency of assaultive and nonassaultive trauma and associated PTSS. Biometric analyses indicated that in the case of nonassaultive trauma, PTSS were directly affected by environmental factors that also influence exposure to nonassaultive trauma. For assaultive trauma both genetic and non-shared environmental influences jointly affected PTSS, and the number of traumatic events moderated the severity of PTSS. Genetic factors were found to become less important beyond some threshold (e.g., 3 or 4 types of serious trauma) suggesting that genetic factors - which may confer either risk or resilience to PTSS - modify these symptoms within a range of human experience, beyond which environmental effects supervene.
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