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

By Vittoria Ardino | Go to book overview

Chapter Eighteen
A Constructivist Perspective on
Post-Traumatic Stress in Children and
Adolescents

Kenneth W. Sewell and Keith R. Cruise


Overview of trauma exposure and PTSD in youth

Trauma exposure and PTSD symptomatology are significant mental health concerns that affect children and adolescents in myriad and complex ways. In the United States, epidemiologic studies of children and adolescents have documented lifetime PTSD diagnoses between 2 and 9.2% (see Gabbay et al., 2004). Similarly, in a national representative sample of over 4,000 adolescent boys and girls, the estimated six-month prevalence of PTSD was 3.7% for boys and 6.3% for girls (Kilpatrick et al., 2003). Examination of prevalence data among specific subpopulations of youth suggests a much greater problem. For example, in a recent review, Ford and colleagues (2007) documented PTSD rates varying between a low of 3% and a high of 50% among youth in the juvenile justice system. Children from inner-city environments and lower-income families also appear to experience trauma exposure (see Youngstrom, Weist, & Albus, 2003) and PTSD symptoms at much higher rates than expected based on the general epidemiologic literature (see Silva et al., 2000). For example, Silva and colleagues reported that among 100 child and adolescent referrals to an inner-city psychiatric clinic, 32% had experienced a significant trauma, with 22% of this subgroup meeting full PTSD diagnostic criteria and 32% exhibiting significant symptoms. Research among clinical samples tends to identify high rates of trauma exposure and co-occurring PTSD. For example, Romero and colleagues (2009) documented that 20.6% of their sample of child and adolescent patients with Bipolar Disorder reported a lifetime history of physical or

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