Traumatic Events Are Associated with Diverse Psychological Symptoms in Typically-Developing Children

Childhood traumatic events are significant risk factors for psychopathology according to adult retrospective research; however, few studies examine trauma exposure and psychological symptoms in pre-adolescent children. Typically-developing children, aged 9–12 years (N = 114), were recruited from the community and selected from the Developmental Chronnecto-Genomics (Dev-CoG) study examining child development. Children completed questionnaires about traumatic life events, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, dissociation, anger, and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Parents also completed internalizing and externalizing measures. The number of traumatic events significantly correlated with symptom severity across all child-report psychological measures, but surprisingly, trauma was not correlated with any parent-report scores. Follow-up analyses revealed a significant trauma effect for internalizing and externalizing behaviors according to child self-report, but not for parent-report measures. Results indicate that childhood trauma may be a non-specific risk factor for sub-clinical psychopathology in otherwise typically-developing children. Moreover, children appear to be the most appropriate reporters of their own psychological distress.

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