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PTSD and Comorbid Disorders in a Representative Sample of Adolescents: The Risk Associated with Multiple Exposures to Potentially Traumatic Events

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 34 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2010 Pages: 773-783
Date Published
October 2010
11 pages

This study examined the impact of multiple exposures to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) - including sexual victimization, physical victimization, and witnessed violence - on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comorbidity with major depressive episodes (MDEs) and substance use disorders (SUDs) in a nationally representative sample of adolescents who were exposed to at least one PTE.


The study's primary hypothesis that the number of victimizations and adolescent experiences increased the odds of developing PTSD and a comorbid disorder was supported. The study findings indicate that a focus on multiple PTEs was warranted, given that the majority of trauma-affected adolescents in the sample had experienced multiple incidents, rather than a single incident, of victimization. When measured as a single victimization court, regardless of victimization type, experiencing multiple victimizations did increase the risk for PTSD and comorbid disorders of SUD and MDE. This was consistent with prior research in the field (Copeland et al., 2007; Kessler et al., 1995). It was significant that comorbid PTSD was much more common that non-comorbid PTSD, with only 32 percent of boys and 12 percent of girls experiencing non-comorbid PTSD. Findings from this study established a foundation for multiple lines of research that examined the impact of multiple exposures to PTEs and psychopathological disorders. Study participants were drawn from the National Survey of Adolescents, and interviewed over the phone using a multistage, stratified random digit dialing procedure. A total of 4,023 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old were interviewed (approximately 75 percent of the total number of households that were contacted and deemed eligible). A weighting system was created to represent the total number of households that were contacted and deemed eligible. Data were obtained on demographics, family characteristics, victimization events, and psychopathology. 3 figures, 2 tables, and 35 references

Date Published: October 1, 2010