The validity of the DSM-IV PTSD criteria in children and adolescents: a review

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;17(4):571-601. doi: 10.1177/1359104511426408. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


Objective: DSM-V is on its way and doubts have been raised regarding the validity of pediatric PTSD. It is the goal of the current review to critically review the empirical literature on PTSD in youth.

Method: A search of PsycINFO, PubMed and reference lists was conducted. Empirical information considered relevant regarding the validity of the criteria was collected.

Results/conclusions: The validity of the symptom criteria and clusters varies, with the Avoidance/Numbing cluster outperforming the Re-experiencing-and Arousal cluster. Factor analytic findings suggest that Arousal criterion D4 should be placed within the Re-experiencing cluster, and that the Avoidance/Numbing cluster should be split up. Some non-DSM-IV PTSD symptoms, among which guilt, have considerable validity in trauma-exposed youth and their inclusion in DSM-V PTSD should be considered. As for preschool children, alternative criteria are recommended that are more developmentally sensitive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arousal
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*