A longitudinal investigation of the relationship between trauma-related cognitive processes and internalising and externalising psychopathology in young people in out-of-home care

Rebecca S. Davis, Sarah L. Halligan, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Elizabeth Elliott, Georgina Ward, Rachel M. Hiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Young people in out-of-home care are at increased risk of developing a range of posttrauma mental health difficulties, including PTSD, but more commonly anxiety, depression and externalising symptoms. Cognitive models of PTSD indicate that trauma-related maladaptive appraisals, coping strategies and trauma memory qualities are key processes in the development and maintenance of PTSD, yet there has been limited investigation of the potential role of these processes in broader posttrauma psychopathology, particularly in young people who have been exposed to complex, rather than acute, trauma. We recruited 120 10–18 years olds in out-of-home care, and their caregivers, who completed assessments at two time points: baseline and 12-month follow-up. Young people completed self-report measures of trauma-related maladaptive appraisals, coping strategies and trauma-memory qualities, as well as reporting on PTSD, anxiety, depression and externalising symptoms. Carers also reported on internalising and externalising symptoms. We found that all three cognitive processes were associated with baseline self-reported internalising symptoms, with maladaptive appraisals most robustly associated with both anxiety and depression. Changes in all three processes over 12-months predicted a change in self-reported internalising and externalising symptoms, with maladaptive appraisals and coping predicting anxiety symptoms, and coping uniquely predicting depression and externalising symptoms. Effects remained after controlling for co-occurring PTSD symptoms. Findings were not replicated when using carer-reported symptoms. These findings suggest that existing cognitive models of PTSD may also usefully explain broader posttrauma depression, anxiety and externalising symptoms in young people who have experienced maltreatment and live in out-of-home care. Clinical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485–496
Number of pages12
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Issue number4
Early online date16 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Cognitive Processes
  • Complex Trauma
  • Externalising
  • Foster Care
  • Internalising
  • Maltreatment
  • PTSD

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