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Publication Detail
Changes in the prevalence and symptom severity of child posttraumatic stress disorder in the year following trauma – a meta-analytic study
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Hiller RM, Meiser-Stedman R, Fearon RMP, Lobo S, MacKinnon A, Fraser A, Halligan SL
  • Publisher:
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
  • Journal:
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
  • Volume:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Keywords:
    Child, Adolescent, Trauma, Meta-analysis, Longitudinal.
Objective: Understanding the natural course of child and adolescent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) hassignificant implications for the identification of, and intervention for, at-risk youth. We used a meta-analytic approachto examine longitudinal changes in youth PTSD prevalence and symptoms over the first 12 months posttrauma.Methods: We conducted a systematic review to identify longitudinal studies of PTSD in young people (5–18 years old),excluding treatment trials. The search yielded 27 peer-reviewed studies and one unpublished dataset for analysis ofpooled prevalence estimates, relative prevalence reduction and standardised mean symptom change. Key moderatorswere also explored, including age, proportion of boys in the sample, initial prevalence of PTSD and PTSD measurementtype. Results: Analyses demonstrated moderate declines in PTSD prevalence and symptom severity over the first3–6 months posttrauma. From 1 to 6 months posttrauma, the prevalence of PTSD reduced by approximately 50%.Symptoms also showed moderate decline, particularly across the first 3 months posttrauma. There was little evidenceof further change in prevalence or symptom severity after 6 months, suggesting that it is unlikely a child would lose aPTSD diagnosis without intervention beyond this point. Conclusions: The current findings provide key informationabout the likelihood of posttrauma recovery in the absence of intervention and have important implications for ourunderstanding of child and adolescent PTSD. Results are discussed with reference to the timing of PTSD screening andthe potential role of early interventions. Findings particularly highlight the importance of future research to developour understanding of what factors prevent the action of normal recovery from the ‘acute’ posttrauma period.Keywords: Child; adolescent; trauma; posttraumatic stress; meta-analysis; longitudinal.
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