Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Conduct Problems: The Role of Self-Control Demands

Raluca M. Simons, Kyle J. Walters, Jessica A. Keith, Jeffrey S. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We tested within- and between-person effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms on conduct problems and alcohol intoxication via self-control demands using multilevel structural equation modeling in a longitudinal burst-design study of 251 U.S. veterans who participated in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We theorized that experiencing PTSD symptoms engenders efforts to regulate mood, control thoughts, and inhibit or control behavior that is taxing to the individual (i.e., it places demands on self-control) and hypothesized that this process results in subsequent deficits in regulatory control that manifest in heightened intoxication and conduct problems associated with PTSD. At the within-person level, daytime PTSD symptoms, IRR = 1.09, and self-control demands, IRR = 1.12, exhibited within-person associations with nighttime conduct problems over and above nighttime intoxication. Consistent with our hypothesis, daytime increases in self-control demands mediated the associations between daytime PTSD symptoms and subsequent nighttime conduct problems. The indirect effect between daytime PTSD symptoms and nighttime intoxication via self-control demands was nonsignificant. At the between-person level, self-control demands mediated the associations between PTSD symptoms and conduct problems; however, the expected between-person associations with intoxication were nonsignificant. Drinking behavior is related to but cannot fully account for various difficulties in psychosocial functioning associated with PTSD. The present results suggest that dysregulated behavior may, ironically, stem from individuals’ concerted efforts to control and manage overwhelming symptoms. Self-control demands may be a common factor that accounts for a broad range of functional impairments associated with PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-308
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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