Risk Factors for Developing Child Traumatic Stress
Severity of the Event
How serious was the event? How badly was the child or someone they loved physically hurt? Did they or someone they love need to go to the hospital? Were the police involved? Was the child separated from their caregivers? Were they interviewed by a principal, police officer, or counselor? Did a friend or family member die?
Amount of Destruction Seen/Distance from Trauma Event
Was the child actually at the place where the event occurred? Did they see the event happen to someone else or were they a victim? Did the child watch the event on television? Did they hear a loved one talk about what happened?
Did the caregiver believe the child was telling the truth? Did the caregiver take the child’s reactions seriously? Did the caregiver respond to the child’s needs? Did the caregiver do their best to protect the child and make him or her feel safe? How did the caregiver cope with the event?
Exposure to More than One Traumatic Event in the Past
In general, children exposed to one traumatic event are less likely to develop traumatic stress reactions. Children continually exposed to traumatic events are more likely to develop traumatic stress reactions.
Children, Family and Community
The culture, race, and ethnicity of children, their families, and their communities can be a protective factor, meaning that children and families have qualities and/or resources that help lessen or eliminate risk and protect them against long-term harm. One of these protective factors can be the child’s cultural identity. Culture often has a positive impact on how children, families, and communities respond, recover, and heal from a traumatic experience. These same protective factors can, at times, also serve as risk factors for developing child traumatic stress.