Highlights of the European Conference on Traumatic Stress 2019

Didn’t get the chance (like me 😦 ) to attend the conference of the European Society of Traumatic Stress Studies this year?  

Maya Meentken and Marie-Louise Kullberg help us out!

We are Maya and Marie-Louise, two Dutch PhD Candidates, sharing some of our ESTSS conference 2019 – both scientific and non-scientific – highlights with you. It all started on Thursday with the inspiring pre-conference paper-in-a-day workshop: A collaboration of 7 young researchers from Germany, Israel and the Netherlands with an interest in (child) trauma, but with a widely varying focus: From burn injury-related trauma to childhood maltreatment, and an MRI study on dissociation to EMDR for medical-related PTSD.

During this year’s paper-in-a-day, hosted by Anne Krause and Lonneke Lenferink, we focused on child trauma utilizing the data from the Prospective studies of Acute Child Trauma and Recovery (PACT/R) archive. The archive includes data of 32 child trauma studies from e.g. US, UK, Australia, Switzerland, representing data from 5500+ children exposed to a single incident trauma, such as injury, disaster, interpersonal violence etc. and is openly available (!). Throughout the whole day Nancy Kassam-Adams from the PACT/R team joint us to answer all our questions and share her ideas on the rich dataset.

Just a sneak preview of our findings; with a latent class analysis we distinguished three groups based on presence of acute stress disorder symptoms and predicted group membership by several trauma and background characteristics. Discussing the methods and our findings plenary and in subgroups answered many of our questions and generated new ideas. The final paper can be expected soon! To all (early-stage career) researchers: We would highly recommend to participate in a next edition to encourage cross-border collaborations and sharing knowledge. (Eva: yay 🙂 )

On Friday the conference was officially opened with a wonderful performance of the four dancers of Amenti Collective. The next three days, many fantastic keynotes, masterclasses, symposiums, posters and talks followed. Just to mention some of our favorites: Talya Greene’s masterclass on network modeling of PTSD symptoms, the keynote of Mark Jordans on global trauma care and the sharp symposium on early screening for PTSD following emergency department admission by Mirjam van Zuiden, Juanita Haagsma, Katharina Schultebraucks and Miranda Olff.

During the ESTSS Young Minds lunch on Saturday we did some speed-dating with other early-stage career researchers from the psychotrauma field. During the ‘speed dates’ we discussed various topics such as ‘life as a PhD student’, supervision, development etc.,  a nice way to meet some peers!

A last impressive program part we would like to mention is the screening of the documentary Reconstructing Utøya by Steffen Svedsen on Sunday. Next to all high-quality clinical and research presentations, the documentary added the compelling perspective of 4 victims from the horrific 2011-event. It gave interesting insights into the different personal perceptions of the event and the long course of recovery afterwards. It made us realize how vulnerable people are, but also how resilient they  can be, which underlines the relevance of all the research we absorbed the past three days.

Thank you to all the presenters and organizers, we’d hope to see you during a next ISTSS/ESTSS conference!

Thanks Maya and Marie-Louise, and everyone who made the ESTSS conference possible this year! The next ESTSS conference will be in Belfast (16-19 June 2021). The theme: Trauma and resilience through the ages: A life course perspective. 

Maya and Marie-Louise’s blogpost also appeared on the website of the NtVP

The 20 most influential papers on posttraumatic stress

Which papers have shaped your thoughts on traumatic stress and recovery? Which articles do you often refer to? These questions will be the starting point for the next #traumaresearch chat on Twitter in exactly a week (March 28th in the US, 29th in Australia; see your local time).


Meanwhile, I have had a look at which publications have been most influential in terms of citations. For the methods (e.g., I have excluded articles focused on measures), see below. These are the most cited papers, with links to free full-text pdfs or abstracts:

  1. Kessler et al. (1995) Posttraumatic stress disorder in the national comorbidity survey. Archives of General Psychiatry. 3437 citations
  2. Breslau et al. (1991) Traumatic events and posttraumatic stress disorder in an urban population of young adults. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1181 citations
  3. Kendall-Tackett et al. (1993) Impact of sexual abuse on children: A review and synthesis of recent empirical studies. Psychological Bulletin. 981 citations
  4. Ehlers & Clark (2000) A cognitive model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 978 citations               Continue reading

Parents tell about their children’s recovery from trauma

A child has been injured in an accident. Or has witnessed a suicide. Or has been assaulted on the way home from school. What is parents’ story when such a thing happens? How do they describe the recovery of their child? And what can we learn from their experiences?

We spoke in-depth with the parents of 25 children who had been through varied types of trauma, including serious road traffic accidents, witnessing murder, sexual assault, the loss of a sibling, and an explosion at home. The events had happened at least 6 months previously and the children were between 8 and 12 years old at the time of the interview.

Even though our questions mainly regarded the child’s recovery, parents talked a lot about their own role in this recovery. In particular, they spoke about two elements of their parenting. The first concerned becoming aware of the child’s needs. Parents tried to figure out what would be normal reactions to the event and to what extent their child showed those or more severe reactions. They used various strategies, including: Continue reading

Does it hurt to ask children about trauma?

Is it harmful to ask children about their (potential) traumatic history or posttraumatic stress reactions? It’s a recurring question, especially in research settings but also in the context of clinical services and day-to-day interactions with children. Often we decide to ask or not to ask based on gut feelings, but who knows whether they are correct?

Three issues are of particular interest and importance I think: 1) Is it necessary to do trauma research with children while we could also do studies with adults and translate the findings? 2) How do we get an idea of whether it actually hurts to ask about trauma? and 3) What empirical evidence do we have so far? Continue reading

Top 5 online resources for children and parents after trauma, and more…

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 top 5 (biased by the languages I speak and some chauvinism…) is: Continue reading