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Keywords:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • children;
  • adolescents;
  • appraisals;
  • cognition

Background:  Negative trauma-related cognitions have been found to be a significant factor in the maintenance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults. Initial studies of such appraisals in trauma-exposed children and adolescents suggest that this is an important line of research in youth, yet empirically validated measures for use with younger populations are lacking. A measure of negative trauma-related cognitions for use with children and adolescents, the Child Post-Traumatic Cognitions Inventory (CPTCI), is presented. The measure was devised as an age-appropriate version of the adult Post-Traumatic Cognitions Inventory (Foa et al., 1999).

Methods:  The CPTCI was developed and validated within a large (n = 570) sample, comprising community and trauma-exposed samples of children and adolescents aged 6–18 years.

Results:  Principal components analysis suggested a two-component structure. These components were labelled ‘permanent and disturbing change’ and ‘fragile person in a scary world’, and were each found to possess good internal consistency, test–retest reliability, convergent validity, and discriminative validity. The reliability and validity of these sub-scales was present regardless of whether the measure was completed in the acute phase or several months after a trauma. Scores on these sub-scales did not vary with age.

Conclusions:  The CPTCI is a reliable and valid measure that is not specific to the type of trauma exposure, and shows considerable promise as a research and clinical tool. The structure of this measure suggests that appraisals concerning the more abstract consequences of a trauma, as well as physical threat and vulnerability, are pertinent factors in trauma-exposed children and adolescents, even prepubescent children.