Impact, psychological sequelae and management of trauma affecting children and adolescents

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2005 Jul;18(4):422-8. doi: 10.1097/


Purpose of review: In this review we examine the most recent literature on the impact, psychological sequelae and management of trauma affecting children and adolescents. We focus on consequences of early traumatic events in childhood, adolescence and adulthood; mediating variables (risk and protective factors) intervention strategies and available treatments.

Recent findings: Increasingly often, mental health professionals are being asked to address the needs of children and adolescents who have been exposed to traumatic events, either as individuals or in groups. Studies on a wide range of age groups, populations and types of trauma revealed that traumatized children and adolescents are at high risk for developing a range of different behavioural, psychological and neurobiological problems. Social support may have a protective effect on the relationship between exposure to traumatic events and psychosocial symptoms.

Summary: Several recent studies analyze a wide range of early traumatic events that may be directly or indirectly experienced by youth. These studies raise many fundamental questions such as validity of current diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, comorbidity with anxiety, depressive disorders and childhood traumatic grief symptoms. Vulnerability and protective factors, mainly gender, age and social support are considered. A common problem in research into the impact of trauma on children is the presence of many limitations: studies are often retrospective, use self-report questionnaires and the results may not be generalizable (i.e. they are trauma or population specific). There is a lack of well designed studies, addressing in particular treatments for post-traumatic symptoms in children and adolescents.