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Exposure to Traumatic Events and the Behavioral Health of Children Enrolled in an Early Childhood System of Care


  • Funding for this project was through a cooperative agreement provided to the State of Connecticut by the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32 DA01946) provided support for Drs. Snyder and Roberts.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Frank J. Snyder or Joy S. Kaufman, Division of Prevention and Community Research, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, The Consultation Center, 389 Whitney Ave., New Haven, CT 06511. E-mail:;


Children may be exposed to numerous types of traumatic events that can negatively affect their development. The scope to which studies have examined an array of events among young children has been limited, thereby restricting our understanding of exposure and its relationship to behavioral functioning. The current cross-sectional study describes traumatic event exposure in detail and its relationship to behavioral health among an at-risk sample of young children (N = 184), under 6 years of age, upon enrollment into an early childhood, family-based, mental health system of care. Caregivers completed home-based semistructured interviews that covered children's exposure to 24 different types of traumatic events and behavioral and emotional functioning. Findings indicated that nearly 72% of young children experienced 1 or more types of traumatic events. Multiple regression model results showed that exposure was significantly associated with greater behavioral and emotional challenges with children's age, gender, race/ethnicity, household income, and caregiver's education in the model. These findings highlight the prevalence of traumatic exposures among an at-risk sample of young children in a system of care and suggest that this exposure is associated with behavioral and emotional challenges at a young age.