Traumatic events do not occur at random

Katie McLaughlinDr. 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.

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