Role of childhood adversities and environmental sensitivity in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder in war-exposed Syrian refugee children and adolescents

Year: 2019
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Elie G. Karam, John A. Fayyad, Claudia Farhat, Michael Pluess, Youmna C. Haddad, Caroline C. Tabet, Lynn Farah and Ronald C. Kessler


Background Increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates have been documented in children exposed to war. However, the contribution of childhood adversities and environmental sensitivity to children's responses to adversities and trauma are still far from settled. Aims To evaluate the relative roles of war, childhood adversities and sensitivity in the genesis of PTSD. Method Data on childhood adversities and sensitivity was collected from 549 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. PTSD symptoms were assessed using the PTSD Reaction Index. Results Although childhood adversities, war events and sensitivity were all significantly related to PTSD in bivariate analyses, multivariate analyses showed that childhood adversities were the most important variable in predicting PTSD. The effect of war on PTSD was found to be dependent on the interplay between childhood adversities and sensitivity, and was most prominent in highly sensitive children with lower levels of adversities; in sensitive children experiencing high levels of adversities, the effects of war exposure on PTSD were less pronounced. Conclusions When considering the effects of war on PTSD in refugee children, it is important to take account of the presence of other adversities as well as of children's sensitivity. Sensitive children may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of war exposure, but only in contexts that are characterised by low childhood adversities.


Childhood Adversities And Trauma,Children And Adolescents,PTSD,Trauma


Childhood Adversities,PTSD,Trauma,War,
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