Post-Traumatic Syndromes in Childhood and Adolescence: A Handbook of Research and Practice

By Vittoria Ardino | Go to book overview

Foreword

Christine A. Courtois

Trauma and exposure to trauma are ubiquitous in contemporary society. Available data document a high probability of direct exposure/experience at some time over the course of the lifespan for the average child and adult, as well as increased vulnerability and risk factors for some that make traumatization more likely. Age is a primary risk factor for all forms of victimization, whether intrafamilial or within the community (Finkelhor, 2008). Children and adolescents are more likely to be victimized than adults due to a number of vulnerabilities that accompany age; these include personal aspects such as their size, physical and developmental immaturity, dependence, and relative powerlessness; family aspects such as parental availability and ability, and their relative health, mental health, and family structure; and community aspects such as poverty and degree of violence. Additionally, media and instantaneous electronic communication have exponentially increased the possibility of indirect exposure. These make it possible to learn about, share or vicariously experience traumas that were not personally experienced, exposure that occurs in addition to any other that is more personal or direct. If that is not enough, in recent years we have learned that it is possible to be traumatized directly through these same electronic means (cyberbullying, cyberstalking, cyber-sexual predation, exposure to pornography, etc.) and that a high percentage of children and adolescents have already been exposed to victimization of this sort. Taken together, these create a much compounded circumstance of vulnerability and traumatization, one that adults might have trouble processing, much less children.

To date and with some exceptions, children have been almost an afterthought in traumatic stress studies and certainly in the development of diagnostic formulations. The primary focus over the course of the twentieth century has been on combat trauma and its consequences. The current diagnosis of

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