Traumatic Stress and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Youth: Recent Research Findings on Clinical Impact, Assessment, and Treatment

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University, Brooklyn, New York. Electronic address: .
Journal of Adolescent Health (Impact Factor: 3.61). 02/2013; 52(2):137-143. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.06.018
Source: PubMed


Childhood trauma can have a profound effect on adolescent development, with a lifelong impact on physical and mental health and development. Through a review of current research on the impact of traumatic stress on adolescence, this article provides a framework for adolescent health professionals in pediatrics and primary care to understand and assess the sequelae of traumatic stress, as well as up-to-date recommendations for evidence-based treatment. We first review empirical evidence for critical windows of neurobiological impact of traumatic stress, and then we discuss the connection between these neurobiological effects and posttraumatic syndromes, including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, aggressive behavior, and psychosis. This article concludes by considering the implications of this current research for clinical assessment and treatment in pediatric and primary care settings.

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    • "PTSD is characterized by reexperiencing the event, numbness of feelings/emotions, avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, and increased arousal (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). Traumatic events and PTSD in childhood can have significant effects on adolescent development (Gerson & Rappaport, 2013) and lead to chronic mental disorders (Sack, Clarke, & Seeley, 1995). Even when full PTSD diagnostic criteria are not met, partial symptomatology may cause serious functional impairment (Stein, Walker, Hazen, & Forde, 1997) and have possible severe long-term consequences, especially because general and particularly mental health resources in most Sub-Saharan African countries are rather limited (Sathiyasusuman, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Quality of life (QOL) tends to be lower among the homeless than the general population, and traumatic events experienced on the streets have a negative impact on QOL. Low-income countries face a high number of street youth, yet little research has been performed so far on QOL, trauma, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among this group. This study aimed at examining the QOL of a sample of Ethiopian street youth within a rehabilitation program and at exploring whether the street youth have experienced traumatic events and show posttraumatic stress symptoms. We interviewed 84 street youths with the World Health Organization Quality of Life Questionnaire (WHOQOL-BREF) and the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (DICA). Mean QOL scores differed significantly between the groups assessed at the beginning and at the end of the program (Cohen's d = 0.48). Eighty-three percent of the Ethiopian street youths had experienced traumatic events, and 25.0% met criteria for PTSD according to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. QOL did not differ between those with and without PTSD symptoms. These findings show the high rate of traumatic events among Ethiopian street youth and the importance for rehabilitation programs that focus on improving QOL. The results of the study may have cultural limitations.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Journal of Traumatic Stress
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    • "Simons and Burt [9], for example, postulate that adverse conditions, including community disadvantage and neighborhood crime, promote social schemas—a hostile, distrustful view of people, the need for immediate gratification, and a cynical view of social norms and codes of conduct—that support delinquent or criminal behavior. Gerson and Rappaport [10] also suggest that exposure to violence can lead to reactive aggression. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Past research provides strong evidence that adverse life events heighten the risk of delinquent behavior among adolescents. Urban informal (slum) settlements in sub-Saharan Africa are marked by extreme adversity. However, the prevalence and consequences of adverse life events as well as protective factors that can mitigate the effects of exposure to these events in slum settlements is largely understudied. We examine two research questions. First, are adverse life events experienced at the individual and household level associated with a higher likelihood of delinquent behavior among adolescents living in two slums in Nairobi, Kenya? Second, are parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem protective against delinquency in a context of high adversity? Methods We used cross-sectional data from 3,064 males and females aged 12–19 years who participated in the Transitions to Adulthood Study. We examined the extent to which a composite index of adverse life events was associated with delinquent behavior (measured using a composite index derived from nine items). We also examined the direct and moderating effects of three protective factors: parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem. Results Fifty-four percent of adolescents reported at least one adverse life event, while 18% reported three or more adverse events. For both males and females, adversity was positively and significantly associated with delinquency in bivariate and multivariate models. Negative associations were observed between the protective factors and delinquency. Significant adverse events × protective factor interaction terms were observed for parental monitoring (females and males), religiosity (males), and self-esteem (females). Conclusions Similar to research in high income countries, adverse life events are associated with an increased likelihood of delinquent behavior among adolescents living in urban slums in Kenya, a low-income country. However, parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem may moderate the effect of adversity on delinquent behavior and pinpoint possible avenues to develop interventions to reduce delinquency in resource-poor settings in low and middle income countries.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
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    ABSTRACT: The search for endophenotypes that stand between genetics and disease has been applied to the diagnostic entity of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Advances are being made in understanding the pathway to disorder in PTSD in terms of brain regions, neuronal networks, stress-related systems (e.g., the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis), and their underlying genetic and neurogenetic bases. The latter are affected by gene–environmental interactions and epigenetic effects, and the environment and context reciprocally interrelate with them, as well. Therefore, a primary focus on (neuro)pathophysiological intermediates in the disease pathway, as appears emphasized in the research domain criteria (RDoC) approach to etiology of psychiatric disorder, and to which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) subscribes, might detract from a more inclusive biopsychosocial approach that would be more applicable in the case of PTSD. The paper undertakes a comprehensive review of the recent literature in the areas of endophenotypes, neurogenetics, epigenetics, neural networks, HPA axis, neuronal networks, pathways, the PTSD five-factor model, allostasis, and the RDoC criteria for psychiatric diagnosis, and then returns to the topic of endophenotypes. Neuronal networks constitute one integrating area that could help in arriving at an appropriate model of PTSD endophenotype. Pathway analysis provides a rich field for discerning individual differences in PTSD development, more so than the static approach of using DSM-5 symptom criteria. A model of endophenotypes is presented, which considers these factors in relation to PTSD. The paper concludes with implications for the DSM-5, for practice and for court, especially that it would be premature to seek individual biomarkers of PTSD given the current state of knowledge, even if it is burgeoning.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Psychological Injury and Law
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