Risk Factors For The Development of PTSD in Children

There are three (3) risk factors that have demonstrated the likelihood that children will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

  1. The severity of the traumatic event.
  2. Parental reaction to the traumatic event.
  3. Physical proximity to the traumatic event.

As a general rule, most studies that have examined
the risk factors associated with PTSD emergence in children find that children and adolescents reporting experiences with severe trauma also report the greatest levels of PTSD- related symptoms.
The extent of family support as well as parental coping capacities also correlate with symptom development in pediatric populations. As such, children and adolescents with a supportive family structure that includes less distress between their parents have a less acute PTSD symptom profile.

Lastly, children and adolescents with a greater proximity from the traumatic event report less distress.

There are a number of other factors that affect the occurrence and severity of PTSD. Interpersonal traumatic events such as rape and direct physical assault are more likely to result in PTSD as opposed to witnessing a school shooting or experiencing a natural or man-made disaster. Gender specific studies tell us that girls are more likely than boys to develop PTSD. Finally, it is not yet clear in what way a child’s age at the time of traumatic event exposure influences the occurrence or severity of PTSD. While some studies allude to a correlation, others simply do not.

Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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