Post-traumatic stress in children following motor vehicle accidents

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;43(2):203-12. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00013.


Background: This study examined children's experiences following a motor vehicle accident (MVA).

Methods: Approximately 9 months following the accident, children (n=50) and their parents (n=50) participated in extensive interviews about the accident and in comprehensive, structured diagnostic interviews concerning overall psychological functioning. Additional assessments included post-traumatic stress questionnaires, archival police report records, and emergency treatment medical records.

Results: Of the 50 children, 7 children (14%) met criteria for PTSD diagnosis, and an additional 5 children met criteria for specific phobia (10%) related to the automobile accident on the structured diagnostic interview (DICA-R-C; total of 24%). Degree of physical injury predicted more PTSD symptoms, and previous accident experiences predicted fewer symptoms, before and after controlling for other variables. Holding degree of physical injury and age constant revealed that social support predicted fewer PTSD symptoms.

Conclusions: Findings suggest the possible inoculating role of previous accidents and the importance of social support following MVA injury.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology