Childhood antecedents of exposure to traumatic events and posttraumatic stress disorder

Carla L. Storr, Nicholas S. Ialongo, James C. Anthony, Naomi Breslau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The authors prospectively examined childhood antecedents of exposure to traumatic events to estimate the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among those exposed to trauma. Method: Two consecutive cohorts of children entering first grade of a public school system in a large mid-Atlantic city in the mid-1980s were followed into young adulthood (mean age=21). Exposure to traumatic events and PTSD were assessed in 75% of the original cohort (N= 1,698). Childhood assessments, conducted upon entry into the first grade, included standardized measures of reading readiness, teacher ratings of behavioral problems, and child self-reports about depression and anxiety. Family characteristics were assessed by parental report. Results: Young adults who had been rated by their first grade teacher as having aggressive/disruptive behavior problems were more likely to experience traumatic assaultive violence events (e.g., being mugged/threatened with a weapon, badly beaten-up) (relative risk= 2.6) but not PTSD following trauma exposure. Youths with high levels of self-rated depressive and anxious feelings in first grade were more likely to experience PTSD once exposed to trauma (relative risk=1.5). Youths who scored in the highest quartile on a reading test in the first grade were at lower risk for exposure to assaultive violence traumas. Conclusions: Childhood behavioral and depressive/anxious problems may influence the risk for PTSD directly by increasing the vulnerability to the PTSD effects of trauma exposure, and indirectly by increasing the likelihood of exposure to assaultive violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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