Children and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Children are susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder as much as adults. Young children are often underdeveloped physically or emotionally as compared to adults and cannot deal with traumatic experiences as well, as a result. Children can have feelings of helplessness when a traumatic event occurs due to their limited physical and mental attributes. Young children are sometimes victimized sexually by adults and as a result, the child may experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.


Studies show that fifteen to forty-three percent of female children have had at least one traumatic experience in their short lifetime, while the percentage for males ranges from fourteen to forty-three percent. Of these children that have had a traumatic experience, three to fifteen percent of the females could be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, while the figure for male adolescents ranges from one to six percent. A child’s environment can play a critical role in determining whether or not they will develop post traumatic stress disorder. Thirty-five percent of children who live in a consistently violent urban setting develop post traumatic stress disorder. Seventy-seven percent of children who were witness to a violent act at school, such as a shooting, will develop symptoms, while ninety percent of sexually abused children will feel the effects of post traumatic stress.

Who is at Risk

Female children are more likely to develop symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder than are their male counterparts. Minorities are also at higher risk, but this is not due to any innate differences, but rather the social and economic structures that account for more minority children being exposed to higher risk environments. The three most important variables that can predict whether or not a child will develop symptoms include the nature of the experience, how the child’s parents respond to the event, and how close they are to the actual event, spatially.


Children often forget the correct order of events that lead up to a traumatic event and frequently replay the experience via drawings and by acting out the past experience. Some children have problems sleeping and experience anxiety when separated from familiar surroundings or people.