Objective: The current study replicates and extends work with adults that highlights the relationship between trauma exposure and distress in response to subsequent, nontraumatic life stressors.
Methods: The sample included 213 2-4-year-old children in which 64.3% had a history of potential trauma exposure. Children were categorized into 4 groups based on trauma history and current life stress.
Results: In a multivariate analysis of variance, trauma-exposed children with current life stressors had elevated internalizing and externalizing problems compared with trauma-exposed children without current stress and nontrauma-exposed children with and without current stressors. The trauma-exposed groups with or without current stressors did not differ on posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity. Accounting for number of traumatic events did not change these results.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that early life trauma exposure may sensitize young children and place them at risk for internalizing or externalizing problems when exposed to subsequent, nontraumatic life stressors.