Identifying Youth at Risk for Difficulties Following a Traumatic Event: Pre-event Factors are Associated with Acute Symptomatology

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This study examined factors related to children's acute symptoms following a potentially traumatic event (PTE) to more clearly identify domains that should be included in screenings of youth exposed to a PTE. In particular, the authors examined whether trauma category (i.e., sexual abuse/disclosure of abuse, intentionally perpetrated traumas other than sexual abuse, and unintentional traumas) was related to symptoms after controlling for other relevant factors. Participants were 112 youth presenting for clinical evaluation within a month of a PTE and their nonoffending caregivers. Using data from baseline assessments collected as part of a randomized controlled trial of a secondary prevention program, the following factors were tested in 3 hierarchical regression models: index PTE category, history of traumatic exposure, preindex event functioning, and parenting behaviors. Prior trauma exposure, preindex event functioning, and hostile parenting were uniquely related to children's symptoms in the acute posttraumatic period after controlling for time since the event and child age, but trauma category was not. Implications for identifying and referring children at high risk for poor outcomes in the early aftermath of a PTE are discussed. An exclusive focus on the event is insufficient and more comprehensive understanding of the child and family is required.

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Journal of Traumatic Stress, v. 26, issue 4, p. 475-482