Traumatic stress and psychological functioning in a South African adolescent community sample

  • Karl D. Swain
  • Basil J. Pillay
  • Wendy Kliewer

Abstract

Background: Traumatic stress may arise from various incidents often leading to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The lifetime prevalence of PTSD is estimated at 1% – 2% in Western Europe, 6% – 9% in North America and at just over 10% in countries exposed to long-term violence. In South Africa, the lifetime prevalence for PTSD in the general population is estimated at 2.3%.

Aim: To examine the prevalence of posttraumatic stress symptomatology and related psychological functioning in a community sample of adolescents.

Setting: Low-socioeconomic communities in KwaZulu-Natal.

Methods: Home interviews with adolescents and their maternal caregivers were used to collect the data using standardised instruments. Adolescents completed the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children; Children’s Depression Inventory; Children’s Somatization Inventory; and Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale. The Child Behaviour Checklist was completed by the caregivers. The sample comprised Grade 7 (n = 256) and Grade 10 (n = 68) learners. Sixty-five percent of the sample was female, and ages ranged from 9 to 18 (M = 13.11, s.d. = 1.54).

Results: Almost 6% of the sample endorsed PTSD and an additional 4% of the participants had clinically significant traumatic stress symptomatology. There was a significant, large, positive correlation between posttraumatic stress and anxiety, and medium positive correlations between posttraumatic stress and depression and somatic symptoms.

Conclusion: Posttraumatic stress symptomatology can be debilitating, often co-occurring with symptoms of depression, anxiety and somatic complications. This may lead to long-term academic, social and emotional consequences in this vulnerable group

Published
2017-04-11
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685