Sex differences in the severity and natural recovery of child PTSD symptoms: A longitudinal analysis of children exposed to acute trauma

Lucy V. Hiscox, Sidney Bray, Abigail Fraser, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Soraya Seedat, Sarah L. Halligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Higher levels of PTSD symptoms are present among trauma-exposed females v. males in adulthood; however, much less is known about the emergence of this sex difference during development.

Methods: In a multi-study sample of 7–18-year-olds (n = 3397), we examined the effect of sex and age on the severity of PTSD symptoms after a single incident trauma at 1 month (T1), and on symptom change after a natural recovery period of 3 (T2) and 6 months (T3). PTSD scores were harmonised across measurement types, and linear regressions were used to determine sex and age effects, adjusting for study level variance and trauma type.

Results: A sex × age interaction was observed at T1 (p < 0.001) demonstrating that older age was associated with greater PTSD symptom severity in females (β = 0.008, p = 0.047), but less severe symptoms in males (β = −0.011, p = 0.014). The same pattern was observed at T2 and T3, with sex differences beginning to emerge by age 12 years. PTSD symptoms decreased naturally by ~25% at T2 with little further improvement by T3. Further, females showed a greater reduction in symptoms at T3 than males, although the same effect was not observed at T2.

Conclusions: Sex differences in PTSD symptoms become apparent during adolescence, due to opposing changes in susceptibility occurring in females and males with age. Understanding the factors contributing to these findings is likely to provide wider insight into sex-specific psychological vulnerability to trauma-related psychopathology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2682-2688
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date10 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Childhood/adolescence
  • PACT/R
  • PTSD
  • longitudinal
  • sex-differences
  • trauma recovery

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