The correlation between social support and post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis

Leila Allen, Christopher Jones, Andrew Fox, Alexandre Copello, Natalie Jones, Richard Meiser-Stedman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Risk factors exploring the link between trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been extensively explored in adults, however, less is known about child and adolescent populations.

Methods: The current meta-analysis aimed to systematically evaluate and summarise the child focused literature to estimate the strength of the relationship between social support and PTSD symptoms following traumatic events.

Results: Fifty primary studies reporting an effect size for the relationship between total social support scale or a source of social support with PTSD were included. A small effect size was found for the relationship between social support and PTSD (r=-0.12, 95% CI -0.16 to -0.07, k=41), with large heterogeneity (I2 = 90.3%). The effect sizes between peer support (r=-0.18, 95% CI -0.10 to -0.25, k= 12), family support (r=-0.16, 95% CI -0.09 to -0.24, k= 13) and teacher support (r=-0.20, 95% CI -0.15 to -0.24, k=5) and PTSD were also small. Moderator analyses indicated that studies reporting on participants exposed to abuse (r=-0.25) and correlations based on univariate data (r=-0.14) had higher correlations and medium heterogeneity. The main effect size was robust to publication bias and study quality.

Limitations: The cross-sectional design of the studies limits the findings and future research using prospective and longitudinal design would help to explain the relationship between social support and PTSD further.

Conclusions: The current review suggests that social support may only play a small role in protecting against PTSD and future research may benefit from exploring the link between post-trauma cognitions and social support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-557
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume294
Early online date16 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Child
  • Meta-analysis
  • PTSD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social support

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