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Sociodemographic Risk, Developmental Competence, and PTSD Symptoms in Young Children Exposed to Interpersonal Trauma in Early Life


  • Michelle Bosquet Enlow,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    • Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michelle Bosquet Enlow, Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, AT-120.3 Boston, MA 02115. E-mail:

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  • Emily Blood,

    1. Clinical Research Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    2. Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
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  • Byron Egeland

    1. Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
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  • The research was supported by grants to the last author from the Maternal and Child Health Service (MCR-270416), the William T. Grant Foundation, New York, and the National Institute of Mental Health (MH-40864). During preparation of this manuscript, the authors were supported by K08MH074588 and the Program for Behavioral Science in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children's Hospital (Bosquet Enlow) and R01HD054850 (Egeland). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of any of the granting agencies. The authors thank the research staff responsible for data collection and the families and teachers whose generous donation of time made this project possible.


Young children are disproportionately exposed to interpersonal trauma (maltreatment, witnessing intimate partner violence [IPV]) and appear particularly susceptible to negative sequelae. Little is known about the factors influencing vulnerability to traumatic stress responses and other negative outcomes in early life. This study examined associations among interpersonal trauma exposure, sociodemographic risk, developmental competence, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in 200 children assessed from birth to first grade via standardized observations, record reviews, and maternal and teacher interviews. More severe PTSD symptoms were predicted by greater trauma exposure (r = .43), greater sociodemographic risk (r = .22), and lower developmental competence (rs = −.31 and −.54 for preschool and school-age developmental competence, respectively). Developmental competence partially mediated the association between trauma exposure and symptoms. Trauma exposure fully mediated the association between sociodemographic risk and symptoms. Neither sociodemographic risk nor developmental competence moderated trauma exposure effects on symptoms. The findings suggest that (a) exposure to maltreatment and IPV has additive effects on posttraumatic stress risk in early life, (b) associations between sociodemographic adversity and poor mental health may be attributable to increased trauma exposure in disadvantaged populations, and (c) early exposures have a negative cascade effect on developmental competence and mental health.

Traditional and Simplified Chinese Abstracts by AsianSTSS


撮要:幼童大至不成比例地地經歷人際創傷(即虐待和目睹親密伴侶暴力〔IPV〕)並受壞結果影響。早年創傷壓力反應及其他壞後果的弱點因素大多卻是未知的。本研究檢視200名兒童,從出生到一年級作標準化觀察,紀錄回顧,母親和教師面訪,以確定人際創傷經歷,社會人口統計學風險,發展能力,和創傷後壓力症(PTSD)症狀的關係。嚴重創傷經歷(r = .43),高社會人口統計學風險(r = .22) 和低發展能力(rs = -.31和-.54分別是學前和學齡發展能力)都預測嚴重PTSD症狀。發展功能局部調整創傷經歷和症狀之間的關係。創傷經歷卻全面調整社會人口統計學風險和症狀的關連。但社會人口統計學風險或發展能力卻未能調節創傷經歷對症狀的效果。結果建議:1.虐待和IPV經歷對早年創傷後壓力風險有添加效應,2.社會人口統計學逆境和精神健康問題的關連可能影響弱勢社群有較多創傷經歷,3.早年經歷對發展能力和精神健康有着負面梯級效應。


撮要:幼童大至不成比例地地经历人际创伤(即虐待和目睹亲密伴侣暴力〔IPV〕)并受坏结果影响。早年创伤压力反应及其他坏后果的弱点因素大多却是未知的。本研究检视200名儿童,从出生到一年级作标准化观察,纪录回顾,母亲和教师面访,以确定人际创伤经历,社会人口统计学风险,发展能力,和创伤后压力症(PTSD)症状的关系。严重创伤经历(r = .43),高社会人口统计学风险(r = .22) 和低发展能力(rs = -.31和-.54分别是学前和学龄发展能力)都预测严重PTSD症状。发展功能局部调整创伤经历和症状之间的关系。创伤经历却全面调整社会人口统计学风险和症状的关系。但社会人口统计学风险或发展能力却未能调节创伤经历对症状的效果。结果建议:1.虐待和IPV经历对早年创伤后压力风险有添加效应,2.社会人口统计学逆境和精神健康问题的关连可能影响弱势社群有较多创伤经历,3.早年经历对发展能力和精神健康有着负面梯级效应。