Dr. Katie McLaughlin is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington. She received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology and in Epidemiology and Public Health from Yale University in 2008. Her research seeks to identify psychological and neurobiological mechanisms linking child trauma exposure to the onset of psychopathology in children and adolescents.
Today, Katie writes about what population-based data can tell us about trauma in U.S. children and adolescents.
The media is filled with stories about traumatized children and adolescents, such as the school shootings at Sandy Hook and Columbine. However, a range of more common traumatic events, such as accidents and caregiver maltreatment, receive less attention. We sought to understand how common traumatic experiences are in the lives of U.S. youths by conducting a study examining trauma exposure and PTSD in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a nationally-representative sample of 6,483 adolescents aged 13-17. This study is the largest population-based study examining trauma exposure and PTSD in U.S. youths, and the findings reveal trauma and PTSD are significant public health problems in this population.
Trauma Exposure is Pervasive among U.S. Youths
A majority of U.S. youths have experienced a traumatic event by the time they reach adolescence. Sixty-two percent of teenagers have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, including interpersonal violence, serious injuries, natural disasters and death of a loved one, and 19 percent have experienced three or more such events. The prevalence of trauma exposure among children and adolescents is nearly as high as the prevalence in adults based on similar population-based studies.
One of the main questions of child trauma psychologists is which children are most vulnerable for PTSD after a traumatic event. The answer would help us to develop interventions that address causes of distress and to focus on the children most in need.
Recently, a fourth meta-analysis on predictors of posttraumatic stress in children has been published, which makes it interesting to compare findings and methods (yes, in that order, for busy people). It gives clinicians insight in risk factors for PTSD and it shows academics what needs to be studied in the next few years.
These are the four meta-analyses I know of, published over a period of 6 years: Kahana et al. (2006), Cox et al. (2008), Alisic et al. (2011), and Trickey et al. (2012). In a nutshell, the reviews combined correlational effect sizes to see which risk factors are associated with children’s posttraumatic stress symptoms. Their methods varied, which I will summarize below, but the findings converge to a number of interesting conclusions. Continue reading →
Set off by the tragic events in Norway in July 2011, I started a somewhat frantic search for websites on posttraumatic recovery designed for youths and parents.
The criteria: the information and tips should be 1) evidence-informed, 2) written for an audience of children/adolescents or parents, 3) easily accessible, 4) freely available, and preferably 5) interactive.
Those are tough criteria. There are not many resources that tick all the boxes, but they do exist.
My thoughts go out to those in Norway who have been affected by the tragic events in the past days, both in Oslo and Utøya. I can’t imagine the scale of this tragedy, and wish survivors all the strength and time needed to come to terms with the experience and the loss of loved ones. When you are looking for information about helping the youngsters and their families involved, below are some links to resources.