Prevalence of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric diagnoses in three groups of abused children (sexual, physical, and both)

Child Abuse Negl. 1998 Aug;22(8):759-74. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(98)00062-3.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other diagnoses in three groups of abused children, sexual only (N = 127), physical only (N = 43), and BOTH (N = 34).

Method: The children, aged 7 to 13 years, were referred to the project from several sources at Arkansas Children's Hospital and from associated local agencies. The victims and caregivers were separately administered the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents, Revised Version (DICA). Additionally, caregivers and classroom teachers completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Characteristics of the abuse were obtained from an investigative questionnaire.

Results: Both victims and caregivers endorsed high rates of disorders, with caregivers generally giving higher rates than children and boys having more externalizing diagnoses than girls. Children in the BOTH group had more diagnoses overall. Concordance between victims and caregivers was modest. PTSD was significantly comorbid with most affective disorders. On the CBCL, caregivers rated girls less disturbed than boys and the sexually abused only group less disturbed than the other groups. Teachers rated the boys more adversely than girls but did not see differences by abuse group. A younger age of onset of sexual abuse and coercion to maintain secrecy predicted a higher number of total diagnoses. Also, children who were physically abused by males had more diagnoses than those physically abused by females.

Conclusions: Children who have been both physically/sexually abused appear to be at highest risk of psychiatric disturbance. PTSD, though common (circa one-third of victims), is generally comorbid with other affective disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*