Psychosocial problems among children of parents with posttraumatic stress disorder

Med Arch. 2012;66(5):304-8. doi: 10.5455/medarh.2012.66.304-308.


Background: To assess the expression of psychosocial problems among children of parents with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Material and methods: A group of 100 children of school age (from 10 to 5 years old) from two randomly chosen schools has been analyzed. Children from complete families whose parents accepted psychometric measurement related to trauma have been chosen. Subjects were divided into two groups: a group of children whose parents express the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-experimental group (N = 50) and group of children whose parents are not suffering from PTSD-control group (N = 50). The assessment of PTSD symptoms and parental traumatisation is done by Harvard Trauma Questionnaire-version for Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) (Allden et al., 1998), behavioral problems were assessed by Child Behavior Checklist--as reported by parents (CBCL, Achenbach, 1991), the level of traumatisation and posttraumatic symptoms in children by the Impact of Event Scale (Horowitz, Wilner, Alvarez, 1979), and neurotism and extraversion is estimated by Neurotism and Extraversion Scale (HANES). With regard to gender and parental participation the sample is homogenous. Data are processed by descriptive statistics method.

Results: Children whose parents are suffering from PTSD symptoms show statistically significant increase in behavioral problems such as withdrawal, somatic complaints, thought problems, delinquent and aggressive behavior (p < 0.001), anxiety/depression, attention deficit and problems in social relations (p < 0.005). Male subjects showed more prominent delinquent behavior (p < 0.01). Children whose parents have PTSD symptoms show significantly expressed internalisation (p < 0.001) and higher level of stress (Chi2 = 23.528, p < 0.001), compared to children of parents without PTSD. There is statistically significant difference regarding the mean (M) of symptom groups among the analyzed groups of subjects related to the symptoms of intrusion (p < 0.01) and symptoms of avoidance (p < 0.001). Significantly expressed neurotism is present in children of parents with PTSD (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: The results show that children of parents with PTSD express a significant behavioral problems, higher level of neurotism, internalisations, posttraumatic stress reactions, symptoms of intrusion and avoidance as well as significantly higher level of stress compared to children of parents without PTSD.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychology, Child
  • Psychometrics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*