Objective: The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and general psychopathology in children following motor vehicle accidents (MVA) was investigated.
Method: Twenty-six subjects aged 8-13 years presenting to an emergency department following an MVA were assessed 3 months after the accident using a standard clinical psychiatric assessment, a structured research interview and self- and parent-report questionnaires.
Results: A higher prevalence of psychopathology was seen in the sample compared with community controls. Self-report of PTSD symptoms revealed 22% subjects in the moderate or severe PTSD range and 35% of mild severity. There was significant concordance between self-report PTSD scores and a clinical diagnosis of PTSD. Perception of threat and the internalising subscale on the Child Behaviour Checklist were significantly correlated with PTSD scores.
Conclusions: PTSD and other symptoms of emotional distress are common following MVAs. The clinical and public health implications are discussed, and areas for further research highlighted.