The Missing Link between Juvenile Delinquency and Pediatric Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An Attachment Theory Lens

ISRN Pediatr. 2012;2012:134541. doi: 10.5402/2012/134541. Epub 2012 Jun 14.

Abstract

The present paper reviews pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder, emphasizing the relational basis of the disorder and highlighting the missing link between juvenile delinquency and trauma. The first part of the paper defines trauma and the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, noting child-specific features. The second part reviews the literature emphasizing the relational and attachment relevant nature of trauma. The third part explores psychological mechanisms for how attachment relations could affect trauma responses. Attachment relations (1) shape core schemas of the world, others, and the self and (2) foster emotional engagement or disengagement, both of which have been associated with traumatic responses. The most empirically supported pediatric trauma treatment, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), acknowledges the attachment figure's influence and includes treating and training the parent and conjoint child-parent discussion. The next section reviews the noteworthy link between juvenile delinquency and trauma history. More awareness of trauma and PTSD in children and adolescents is recommended to effectively address juvenile delinquency. The review ends with a few helpful points for practicing pediatricians regarding childhood trauma.