Identifying teens at risk for PTSD

A new study from Boston Children’s Hospital has pinpointed risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder among teenagers exposed to an emotionally traumatic event.

The findings are based on data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which included 6,483 teen-parent pairs.

Of this group, 61 percent of the teenagers had experienced at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, such as physical or sexual abuse, injuries, natural disasters or the death of a close friend or family member. Nineteen percent had been exposed to three or more traumatic events.

Among those teens who had experienced a traumatic event, 4.7 percent had suffered from PTSD. The researchers identified the following risk factors:

  • Being female- Girls had a higher lifetime prevalence of PTSD (7.3 percent compared to 2.2 percent)
  • Being exposed to interpersonal violence– Among teens who had been raped, 39 percent had experienced PTSD; PTSD prevalence was 25 percent for those teens who had been physically abused by a caregiver
  • Existing anxiety and mood disorders

The report will be published online in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry