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PTSD Risk on Children of Injured Parents

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Stress is a natural response of the human body to dangerous situations; it’s a healthy reaction to protect oneself from harm. In post-traumatic stress disorder, this reaction is damaged: the fear or stress will be felt when there’s no threat. This can be developed after a person goes through a distressing ordeal related to physical harm or the threat of it. Some examples of these incidents are: robbery, rape, torture, kidnappings, accidents, natural disasters, etc.; although it is popularly related to war veterans.

However, PTSD does not necessarily strikes those who had suffered from the traumatic event themselves, but also their loved ones or a witness of the events can succumb to the effects. A recent study conducted by the University Of Washington School Of Medicine focuses on children whose parents have suffered serious injury, and the results show they have an increased risk of developing PTSD symptoms. In adults, the symptoms can include flashbacks, bad dreams, depression or strong guilt, feeling tense, irritability, and other psychological and physiological markers. Nonetheless, young children may react differently, showing other signs such as bedwetting (in children who use the toilet normally), unusual clinginess towards their parent or adults, loss of speech, or even acting out the event during playtime. Older children and teens may react in a similar way as adults.

The research involved studying 175 pairs of parents and school-age children at a trauma center. The results showed children of parents badly injured in accidents were positively more likely (about twice as much) to suffer from PTSD symptoms, in comparison to those whose parents weren’t hurt. Clearly there is a connection and it demonstrates that, in fact, suffering from a traumatic event themselves was not necessary to trigger a post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, psychologist Nancy Kassam-Adams, director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is also involved with other researches in the field: she discovered that PTSD could be found more often on unharmed children with injured parents, than on those who suffered from an accident themselves.

The University researchers also found that about 20% of the children who were part of the study showed PTSD symptoms as far as five months beyond the traumatic incident. Instead, the percentage drops to only 10% in the cases of the children whose parents weren’t wounded. Also, in cases where both the child and the parent suffered injuries, the minor recovered much slower. Usual causes for both the adult and the child to be injured are, more frequently, car accidents; also, burns and slip-and-fall accidents are common.

In conclusion, it is elemental to take into account the wellbeing of a child whose parent has suffered a traumatic situation, because the psychological effects can be as serious as going through a distressing event themselves. Counseling or professional help is recommended to assist the child to overcome this stressful situation, thus reducing the risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.