Posttraumatic stress in infants and preschoolers with cancer


  • Presented in part at the 11th European Conference of Traumatic Stress (ECOTS) of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS), Oslo, 15–18 June 2009.

Correspondence to: Department of Psychosomatics and Psychiatry, University Children's Hospital Zurich, Steinwiesstrasse 75, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:



This study is the first to assess posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young children with cancer and to examine individual, medical, and parent-related determinants.


Forty-eight patients with cancer, ages 8–48 months, were assessed in an average of 15 months after their diagnosis, using mothers as informants to complete the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Semi-Structured Interview and Observational Record for Infants and Young Children. Additionally, mothers and the attending pediatric oncologist completed questionnaires on various determinants of child PTSD.


Nine children (18.8%) met the age-appropriate criteria for full PTSD proposed by Scheeringa et al., and 20 children (41.7%) met criteria for partial PTSD. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that higher child age at diagnosis (odds ratio = 1.11) and maternal PTSD severity (odds ratio = 1.14) increased the risk of full or partial PTSD in children.


This study provides evidence for a substantial prevalence of PTSD in young children with cancer and identifies important risk factors. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.