The role of siblings in children’s mental health

siblings mental healthWhen you were young(er), did you also engage in personality predictions with your peers based on order in the family? For example, that the oldest of three siblings would be the bossiest and the youngest the most spoiled? Almost everyone (90% of us) have one or more siblings. And we know they play an important role in our lives.

Scientists in the Netherlands have now combined international research examining siblings’ role in children’s mental health. This is an innovative step, since there is quite a lot of research on parenting but not so much on siblings. Moreover, the authors state that the sibling relationship is “one of the most neglected relationships in psychological research and practice.” Also in the child traumatic stress area, I think siblings are still overlooked. Continue reading

Imagery rehearsal therapy for post-trauma nightmares

sleep treatmentMelynda Casement and Leslie Swanson have recently published an interesting meta-analysis on imagery rehearsal therapy. Find the summary below, with thanks to Georgina Johnstone*.


Sleep problems are a central component of posttraumatic stress, both in children and adults. Difficulty maintaining sleep is reported by up to 91% of people with PTSD, with 72% experiencing nightmares.

Imagery rehearsal (IR) therapy is more and more used to overcome these sleep problems. Although not all versions of IR employ exactly the same techniques, they all have a cognitive behavioral orientation and include these three elements: Continue reading

The physical health consequences of posttraumatic stress

Maria PacellaThe relation between posttraumatic stress and physical health is a fascinating one. On my ‘talent hunt’ at the ISTSS conference, I met Maria Pacella, who is currently completing her doctoral degree in Health Psychology at Kent State University, Ohio, USA. She examines the relation between traumatic stress and the development of mental and physical health problems in adults. Some fresh new findings below!

The following research describes a recent meta-analysis synthesizing the literature regarding PTSD/PTSD symptoms (PTSS) and comorbid physical health complaints. Related research conducted with samples of motor vehicle accident victims and people living with HIV is also discussed. For more information about our ongoing research studies, please see the Delahanty Stress and Health Lab website.

1. PTSD is associated with poor physical health

The relationship between PTSD and co-occurring mental health conditions — such as depression, substance use, and general anxiety — has received much attention in the literature. However, it is equally important to consider the impact of PTSD on physical health functioning. Given the biological alterations associated with PTSD, individuals with this disorder may be vulnerable to the development of, or worsening of, certain physical health conditions. A better understanding of the physical health consequences of PTSD will inform prevention and treatment practices, thereby reducing the economic burden created by the disorder.

Recently, we conducted a meta-analysis on the results of 62 empirical articles examining the relationship between PTSD and six physical health outcomes. Results revealed that individuals with PTSD suffered from greater health complaints in the following domains: Continue reading

The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy for children with PTSD

This week, we discuss a recent meta-analysis by Kowalik et al, which will also be input to a live Twitter journal club / chat. If you would like to join or just want to read the comments, have a look at #traumaresearch on Thursday February 23rd 10pm GMT (= 5pm New York, 23h Amsterdam, Friday 9am Melbourne).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is probably the most used, or at least most recommended, treatment for children with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As I am quite fond of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the new meta-analysis on the efficacy of trauma focused CBT by Kowalik and colleagues quickly grabbed my attention. Although (and because?) I have a few critical questions regarding the publication, I think it merits attention from researchers and clinicians. Continue reading

4 Meta-analyses of predictors of PTSD in children: An overview

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