Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Vulnerability to life events exposure

D. M. Fergussona1 c1 and L. J. Horwooda1

a1 Department of Paediatrics, Christchurch Clinical School of Medicine, Christchurch, New Zealand


A theoretical model designed to assess the contribution of systematic factors contributing to vulnerability to life-events exposure is described. This model is applied to six-year longitudinal data on life events exposure for a sample of New Zealand women with school-aged children. The fitted model suggests that in the region of 30% of the variance in life-event reports over the six-year period was attributable to a common vulnerability factor. Modelling of this vulnerability factor suggested that two major determinants of vulnerability to life events were the level of social disadvantage of the woman and her level of neuroticism: women of socially disadvantaged backgrounds and women with high neuroticism scores showed a consistent tendency to report high life-event exposure during the six-year period. The implications of these findings are discussed.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr D. M. Fergusson, The Christchurch Child Development Study, Department of Paediatrics, Christchurch Clinical School of Medicine, Christchurch Public Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand