Prevalence of PTSD Symptoms in Youth Living in Residential Care: Results and Implications

Our study examined the relationship between PTSD, social support, life adversity, and impairment caused by trauma. We utilized non-probabilistic, convenience sampling to screen males aged 13 – 15 years (N = 40) who were placed in a residential unit within the last 12 months for the aforementioned constructs.

Our findings suggest that 80% of participants met the criteria for PTSD symptoms. Of those classified as having experienced a high level of adversity, 75% reported having no social support. Our findings are congruent with other studies which showed high prevalence of PTSD symptoms amongst adolescents in child protection services (Greeson et al., 2011; Salazar et al., 2013).

Significant differences were detected in PTSD scores between those who indicated support and those who had none. Implications of this study highlight the lack of support for youth with trauma and the importance of support systems that may act in part as a protective factor in youth who experience PTSD symptoms (Fincham et al., 2009). It is suggested that those employed by child protection agencies would do well to make available peer support groups and other forms of social support to act as a buffer against the experiencing of these symptoms.

In terms of limitations, the small size, non-probabilistic sample reduced the power, and due to the nature of the questionnaire used, a formal PTSD diagnostic could not be made. Specific trauma or adverse childhood experiences should be explored in future research to better target the most appropriate interventions and treatments for this population of youth.

References:

Fincham, D.S., Korthals Altes, L., Stein, D. J., & Seedat, S. (2009). Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in adolescents: risk factors versus resilience moderation. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 50, 193-199

Greeson, J. K., Briggs, E. C., Kisiel, C. L., Layne, C. M., Ake, G. S. ., Ko, S. J., Gerrity, E. T., Fairbank, J. A. (2011). Complex Trauma and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents Placed in Foster Care: Findings from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Child Welfare, 90 (6), p. 91-108

Salazar, A. M., Keller, T. E., Gowen, L. K., & Courtney, M. E. (2013). Trauma Exposure and PTSD among older Adolescents in Foster Care. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology: the International Journal for Research in Social and Genetic Epidemiology and Mental Health Services, 48 (4), 545-551

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