Violence at Home Can Trigger Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children
WebMD News Archive
Other symptoms that may point to PTSD are repeated nightmares that have no
specific content; distress at being exposed to things that remind the patient
of the traumatic event, accompanied by shaking or sweating; and avoidance of
McCloskey and her colleagues studied children living in the Southwest. Those
selected were children of battered women and had been exposed to severe and
chronic acts of violence in the home. "We interviewed all of the children,
including a comparison group or control group who weren't exposed to domestic
violence about stressful and traumatic events that had occurred to them
recently," she explains.
The children were between the ages of 6 and 12. They were asked to tell
about something that scared them to the point they feared they or someone else
would get hurt. Mothers were also interviewed and both were given
questionnaires about other psychiatric symptoms.
The traumatic events reported were domestic violence (40%), violent crime
(16%), accidents (36%), and death or illness of a family member or close friend
(8%). The accidents included 61% automobile and 39% drowning. Eighty-seven
percent of the children reporting traumatic events were witnesses only, 10%
were targets, and 3% were both.
According to McCloskey, understanding the child's environment as well as a
specific cause of the post traumatic stress will help the child fully
- Children who are from violent homes or who are the target of violence may
exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Parents should try to be aware if their children are targets or witnesses
of violence, because often, the children will not tell their parents.
- Even young babies who witness violence can be affected, and will begin to
re-enact what they observed when they get older.