Post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents following road traffic accidents

Br J Psychiatry. 1998 May;172:443-7. doi: 10.1192/bjp.172.5.443.


Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a persistent and disabling psychiatric disorder. There is little systematic research into the psychiatric consequences of road traffic accidents (RTAs) in children and adolescents.

Method: A consecutive sample of 8-16-year-olds attending an accident and emergency department following RTAs were screened for PTSD. Potential cases and their parent(s) were interviewed with semi-structured research instruments about six weeks and six months after the accident.

Results: Fifty-three (45%) of the 119 subjects fell above PTSD cut-off on the Frederick's Reaction Index. Thirty-three (75%) of the 44 cases met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. In half of these other psychiatric disorders were present, including major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. Being female, involvement in car accidents and pre-existing depression and anxiety were associated with developing PTSD. Seventeen per cent of the sample continued to be symptomatic six months after the accident.

Conclusions: PTSD is a common consequence of RTAs. Liaison with accident and emergency departments would enhance the early detection and follow-up of children at risk of developing PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Sex Distribution
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*