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A Comprehensive Review of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children

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Kailey M. Pate

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Faculty Advisor: Dr. Wendy Rote

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Post-traumatic stress disorder in children under six years old has been formally recognized since 2013 (Veteran’s Affairs, 2019), yet the body of research is still lacking for this age group. An important step towards helping these youngest sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder is to determine whether symptomology assessments, social supports, and treatments that exist for older children can apply to those who are younger than six suffering from the disorder. This comprehensive literature review compiled the research on post-traumatic stress disorders in children from six to seventeen years old in Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WEIRD) countries. Topics covered included definitions and diagnostic criteria, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the causes of PTSD, risk factors of PTSD, the importance of social support and treatment practices. Common themes and gaps in the literature were identified, including a disproportionate focus on sexual abuse as the cause of PTSD in children (overlooking areas such as physical abuse and maltreatment), that females are the most frequently diagnosed, and that there is little research directly comparing PTSD sources, symptoms, or treatment in children younger and older than age six. The findings of this analysis suggest that more research needs to be done on the sources of PTSD, preventative measures, assessing symptomology, and effective treatments for children under six years old.

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A Comprehensive Review of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children

Post-traumatic stress disorder in children under six years old has been formally recognized since 2013 (Veteran’s Affairs, 2019), yet the body of research is still lacking for this age group. An important step towards helping these youngest sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder is to determine whether symptomology assessments, social supports, and treatments that exist for older children can apply to those who are younger than six suffering from the disorder. This comprehensive literature review compiled the research on post-traumatic stress disorders in children from six to seventeen years old in Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WEIRD) countries. Topics covered included definitions and diagnostic criteria, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the causes of PTSD, risk factors of PTSD, the importance of social support and treatment practices. Common themes and gaps in the literature were identified, including a disproportionate focus on sexual abuse as the cause of PTSD in children (overlooking areas such as physical abuse and maltreatment), that females are the most frequently diagnosed, and that there is little research directly comparing PTSD sources, symptoms, or treatment in children younger and older than age six. The findings of this analysis suggest that more research needs to be done on the sources of PTSD, preventative measures, assessing symptomology, and effective treatments for children under six years old.

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