PTSD in children and adolescents: toward an empirically based algorithma

Depress Anxiety. 2011 Sep;28(9):770-82. doi: 10.1002/da.20736. Epub 2010 Aug 23.


In considering potential revisions for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), describing developmental influences on symptomatic expression is a high priority. This review presents a number of options and preliminary recommendations to be considered for DSM-V. Research conducted in the past 15 years is reviewed that pertains to expressions of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in preschool and school age children and in adolescents. This research has attempted to determine the usefulness of the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD in children and adolescents. Based on the studies of preschool children, evidence supports two sets of suggestions: first, we suggest that developmental manifestations are warranted in A-D criteria of PTSD; and second, we suggest that a developmental preschool PTSD subtype is warranted that lowers the C threshold from three to one symptom. For school-age children and young adolescents, the evidence is more limited. Nevertheless, there is also evidence suggesting that modifications in PTSD criteria A-D, including fewer Cluster C symptoms, may facilitate accurate diagnosis in this age group.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Algorithms*
  • Arousal
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Dissociative Disorders / classification
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / classification*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology