The psychological impact of trauma on preschool children and their parents

Woolgar, Francesca (2020) The psychological impact of trauma on preschool children and their parents. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of 2020WoolgarFClinPsyD.pdf]
Download (7MB) | Preview


Aims: The aim of this thesis portfolio was to examine the psychological impact of experiencing a traumatic event in young children and parents. Factors that may predict an individual’s psychological response following a traumatic event were also explored.

Design: This portfolio contains two main papers and supporting chapters. The first paper, a meta-analysis, reviewed the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in preschool-aged children. The second paper, an empirical study, examined the impact of a child’s admission to a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) on parents. In both papers, factors contributing to higher emotional distress were explored. The additional chapters include further information and an overall discussion and critical review.

Results: The meta-analysis revealed that a significant minority of preschool-aged children met the diagnostic threshold for PTSD following direct exposure to trauma. The empirical paper indicated a high prevalence of parents who were vulnerable to future psychological distress (PTSD and depression) following their child’s PICU admission. Pre-trauma factors, including pre-existing mental health difficulties, and peri-trauma appraisals strongly predicted parent vulnerability to psychological distress. These factors predicted parental vulnerability over and above medical severity markers.

Conclusions: Children under six years old can develop PTSD, with similar prevalence trends to older children following different trauma types. It is therefore important for clinicians to be aware of symptoms in young children, and for appropriate interventions to be developed. A high proportion of parents of are at risk of developing longer-term psychological distress following their child’s PICU admission. Importantly, pre-trauma psychological factors, and peri-trauma appraisals, predict parental psychological vulnerability. The importance of applying appropriate diagnostic criteria, and using screening measures to identify individuals are discussed. Early identification can trigger support that will likely benefit both the individual and their family.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2020 14:16
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2021 14:05


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item