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Abstract

Although peritraumatic dissociation and other subjective peritraumatic reactions, such as emotional distress and arousal, have been shown to affect the relationship between a traumatic event and the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults, systematic studies with youth have not been done. In a mixed ethnic and racial sample of 90 psychiatrically impaired youth (ages 10–18, 56% boys), we investigated the contributions of peritraumatic dissociation, emotional distress, and arousal to current PTSD severity after accounting for the effects of gender, trauma history, trait dissociation, and psychopathology (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression). Peritraumatic dissociation emerged as the only peritraumatic variable associated with current PTSD severity assessed both by questionnaire and interview methods (β = .30 and .47 p < .01). Peritraumatic dissociation can be rapidly assessed in clinical practice and warrants further testing in prospective studies as a potential mediator of the trauma-PTSD relationship in youth.