Risk Factors for PTSD in Children and Statistics

Statistics on PTSD in Children

A few studies of the general population have been conducted that examine rates of exposure and PTSD in children and adolescents. Results from these studies indicate that 15 to 43 percent of girls and 14 to 43 percent of boys have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Of those children and adolescents who have experienced a trauma, 3 to 15 percent of girls and 1 to 6 percent of boys could be diagnosed with PTSD.
In adolescents and children, PTSD rates are higher in those recruited from at-risk samples. The rates in these at-risk groups vary from 3 to 100 percent. For example, studies have shown that as many as 100 percent of children who witness a parental homicide or sexual assault develop PTSD.
Similarly, 90 percent of sexually abused children, 77 percent of children exposed to a school shooting, and 35 percent of urban youth exposed to community violence develop PTSD.

Risk Factors for PTSD in Children

Three risk factors have been shown to increase the likelihood that a child will develop PTSD. These include:
  • The severity of the traumatic event
  • The parental reaction to the traumatic event
  • The physical proximity to the traumatic event.
In general, most studies find that children and adolescents who report experiencing the most severe traumas also report the highest levels of PTSD symptoms. Family support and parental coping skills have also been shown to affect symptoms in children.
Studies show that children and adolescents with greater family support and less parental distress have lower levels of symptoms. Finally, children and adolescents who are farther away from the traumatic event report less distress.
Several other factors affect the occurrence and severity of PTSD. Research suggests that interpersonal traumas, such as rape and assault, are more likely to result in PTSD than other types of traumas. In addition, if an individual has experienced a number of traumatic events in the past, those experiences increase the risk of developing this condition.
In terms of gender, several studies suggest that girls are more likely than boys to develop PTSD.
A few studies have examined the connection between ethnicity and PTSD. While some studies find that minorities report higher levels of related symptoms, researchers have shown that this is due to other factors, such as differences in levels of exposure.
It is not clear how a child's age at the time of exposure to a traumatic event affects the occurrence or severity of PTSD. While some studies find a relationship, others do not. Differences that do occur may be due to differences in the way the condition is expressed in children and adolescents of different ages or developmental levels.
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