Toward an empirical definition of pediatric PTSD: the phenomenology of PTSD symptoms in youth

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;41(2):166-73. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200202000-00010.


Objective: To examine the frequency and intensity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and their relation to clinical impairment, to examine the requirement of meeting all DSM-IV symptom cluster criteria (i.e., criteria B, C, D), and to examine the aggregation of PTSD symptom clusters across developmental stages.

Method: Fifty-nine children between the ages of 7 and 14 years with a history of trauma and PTSD symptoms were assessed with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for Children and Adolescents.

Results: Data support the utility of distinguishing between the frequency and the intensity of symptoms in the investigation of the phenomenology of pediatric PTSD. Children fulfilling requirements for two symptom clusters did not differ significantly from children meeting all three cluster criteria with regard to impairment and distress. Reexperience (cluster B) showed increased aggregation with avoidance and numbing (cluster C) and hyperarousal (cluster D) in the later stages of puberty.

Conclusions: Frequency and intensity of symptoms may both contribute to the phenomenology of pediatric PTSD. Children with subthreshold criteria for PTSD demonstrate substantial functional impairment and distress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Development*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manuals as Topic
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology