Post-traumatic stress disorder in parents following their child’s single-event trauma: A meta-analysis of prevalence and risk factors

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Evidence suggests parents of children who experience a trauma may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can have significant consequences for their own and their child’s functioning. As such, identifying the rates and possible correlates for the development of PTSD in parents is of clinical and theoretical importance, and would enhance our understanding of how best to support families in the aftermath of trauma. This meta-analysis of 41 studies (n = 4370) estimated the rate of PTSD in parents following their child’s single-incident trauma to be 17.0% (95% CI 14.1–20.0%); when removing samples which were mixed, or not exclusively single-incident traumas the prevalence estimate dropped to 14.4% (95% CI 10.8–18.5%). Pooled effect sizes of 32 potential correlates for parents developing PTSD were also identified. Medium-to-large effects were found for factors relating to the parent’s post-traumatic cognition, psychological functioning and coping strategies alongside child PTSD. Small effects were found for pre-trauma factors, objective trauma-related variables and demographic factors for both parent and child. Results are consistent with cognitive models of PTSD, suggesting peri- and post-trauma factors are likely to play a substantial role in its development. These findings indicate the clinical need for screening parents most vulnerable to adverse post-traumatic reactions within the context of child trauma and tailoring interventions to include the family where necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725–743
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Issue number4
Early online date23 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Children
  • Parents
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Predictor
  • Prevalence
  • Risk factor

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