Quality & Quantity 35: 161–171, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Relationship of the Degree of Exposure to a
Technological Disaster and Emotional Response: A
Structural Model Approach
ADOLFO JARNE ESPARCIA
and JOAN GUÀRDIA OLMOS
Departament de Personalitat, Avaluació i Tractaments Psicològics, Universitat de Barcelona,
Departament de Metodologia de les Ciències del Comportament, Universitat de
Abstract. The aim of this study was to analyze type and intensity of psychopathological response
(depression and post-traumatic stress disorder) in a population sample from Guadalajara, Mexico, in
an area affected by a series of gas explosions in 1992. The study comprised a series of interviews
conducted three months after the event. Three groups were formed: subjects directly exposed to the
explosions; those affected by the explosions but not directly exposed to them; and a control group.
We devised a model, deﬁning that the depressive level is affected by the socioeconomic level and
the attributional style; being affected by the exposition degree to the disaster. This question was
evaluated as using the structural models technique. The results indicate a close relationship between
the variables deﬁned and conﬁrm the action of degree of exposure to the disaster. In fact, a reasonable
ﬁt for the model was only obtained in the direct exposure group; the ﬁt was poor in the other two
groups, in which results were largely similar. We conclude that the intensity of exposure to the event
has a fundamental bearing on victims’ psychopathological response, and on the development of
posttraumatic stress disorder.
Key words: Post-traumatic stress disorder, technological disaster, depression, structural models.
The most frequent psychopathological response to situations of technological or
natural disasters includes clinical signs and symptoms characteristic of depressive
disorders and of anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The two
pathologies frequently coincide (A.P.A., 1995; Lima et al., 1990; Blake, Albano
and Keane, 1992; Brooks and McKinlay, 1992).
In the case of PTSD the fundamental problem resides in establishing the re-
lations between exposure to the event, susceptibility of each individual to the
disorder, and the disaster itself, since it seems clear enough that the mere fact of
witnessing an event is not enough to cause this type of response (Canino et al.,
Corresponding author: Departament de Metodologia de les Ci
encies del Comportament, Fac-
ultat de Psicologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Passeig de la Vall d’Hebron, 171, Ediﬁci de Ponent,
08035 Barcelona, Spain. Tel.: 93-4021082 (Ext. 3094); Fax: 93-4021427; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org