Trajectory of post-traumatic stress and depression among children and adolescents following single-incident trauma

Joyce Zhang, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Bobby Jones, Patrick Smith, Tim Dalgleish, Adrian Boyle, Andrea Edwards, Devasena Subramanyam, Clare Dixon, Lysandra Sinclaire-Harding, Susanne Schweizer, Jill Newby, Anna McKinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression have high comorbidity. Understanding their relationship is of clinical and theoretical importance. A comprehensive way to understand post-trauma psychopathology is through symptom trajectories. This study aims to look at the developmental courses of PTSD and depression symptoms and their interrelationship in the initial months post-trauma in children and adolescents.

Methods: Two-hundred-and-seventeen children and adolescents aged between eight and 17 exposed to single-event trauma were included in the study. Post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and depression symptoms were measured at 2 weeks, 2 months and 9 months, with further psychological variables measured at the 2-week assessment. Group-based trajectory modelling (GBTM) was applied to estimate the latent developmental clusters of the two outcomes. Logistic regression was used to identify predictors associated with high symptom groups.

Results: The GBTM yielded a three-group model for PTSS and a three-group model for depression. PTSS trajectories showed symptoms reduced to a non-clinical level by 9 months for all participants (if they were not already in the non-clinical range): participants were observed to be resilient (42.4%) or recovered within 2 months (35.6%), while 21.9% experienced high level PTSS but recovered by 9 months post-trauma. The depression symptom trajectories predicted a chronic non-recovery group (20.1%) and two mild symptom groups (45.9%, 34.0%). Further analysis showed high synchronicity between PTSS and depression groups. Peri-event panic, negative appraisals, rumination and thought suppression at 2 weeks predicted slow recovery from PTSS. Pre-trauma wellbeing, post-trauma anxiety and negative appraisals predicted chronic depression.

Conclusions: Post-trauma depression was more persistent than PTSS at 9 months in the sampled population. Cognitive appraisal was the shared risk factor to high symptom groups of both PTSS and depression.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2037906
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022


  • GBTM
  • LCGA
  • PTSD
  • comorbidity
  • computational phenotyping
  • depression
  • trajectory

Cite this