A longitudinal investigation of children's trauma memory characteristics and their relationship with posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms

Rosie McGuire, Rachel M. Hiller, Anke Ehlers, Pasco Fearon, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Sophie Leuteritz, Sarah L. Halligan

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Abstract

While trauma memory characteristics are considered a core predictor of adult PTSD, the literature on child PTSD is limited and inconsistent. We investigated whether children’s trauma memory characteristics predict their posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) at 1 month and 6 months post-trauma. We recruited 126 6–13 year olds who experienced a single-incident trauma that led to attendance at an emergency department. We assessed trauma memory disorganisation and sensory-emotional qualities through both narrative recall and self-report questionnaire, and PTSS at 1-month post-trauma and at 6-month follow-up. We found that, after controlling for age, children’s self-reported trauma memory characteristics were positively associated with their concurrent PTSS, and longitudinally predicted symptoms 6-months later. However, observable trauma memory characteristics coded from children’s narratives were not related to PTSS at any time. This suggests that children’s perceptions of their trauma memories are a more reliable predictor of the development and maintenance of PTSS than the nature of their trauma narrative, which has important implications for clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807–816
Number of pages10
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Volume49
Issue number6
Early online date3 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Memory
  • Narrative
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Trauma

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