SCHOOL SURVEY OF EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE AND POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS SYMPTOMS IN ADOLESCENTS

  • S. Seedat
  • E van Nood
  • B Vythilingum
  • D J Stein
  • D Kaminer

Abstract

This preliminary survey in a sample of grade 10 adolescents in secondary schools in the Western Cape examined:- (a) adolescents' exposure to violent and multiple traumas, (b) differences in trauma exposure among schools, and (c) the relationship between trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms. A survey design was employed, with anonymous self-report questionnaires administered to grade 10 students (n = 307, 57.5% female, 42.5% male) from three schools. Survey instruments included a demographic questionnaire, life events questionnaire, childhood trauma questionnaire, trauma checklist, and PTSD symptom checklist. Respondents were asked to rate the presence or absence of posttraumatic stress symptoms in the past month based on their most traumatic experience. The most common traumatic experiences reported were: witnessing violence in the street, neighbourhood, or school (62.9%), being robbed or mugged (31.6%), and witnessing a family member being hurt or killed (30.0%). Although only 12.4% of adolescents reported sexual assaults, 32.4 of those assaulted met criteria (DSM-IV) for a self-report diagnosis of PTSD (not clinically confirmed). PTSD symptoms in the past month were a common manifestation of trauma exposure (mean PTSD symptoms = 5.3 ± 5.66). Gender effects in response to violence exposure were also evident, with girls responding with more PTSD symptoms than boys. Overall, thirty-seven adolescents (12.1%) met criteria (DSM-IV) for a self-report diagnosis of PTSD (not clinically confirmed). Epidemiological data specifically documenting PTSD prevalence following violence exposure in children and adolescents in South Africa is lacking. In this preliminary survey, a positive association was found between exposure to violent and multiple traumas and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in adolescents.

(Southern Af. J. of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 2000, 12(1): 38-44)
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eISSN: 1728-0591
print ISSN: 1728-0583