A Developmental Look at the Impact of Childhood Trauma in Treatment-seeking Samples

Caitlin Ann Williams

Advisor: Christianne Esposito-Smythers, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Leah Adams, Sarah Fischer

Online Location, Online
August 07, 2020, 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


Child maltreatment is a serious problem in the United States. The vast majority of the perpetrators of maltreatment for young children (ages 2-6) are parents/caregivers. If left untreated, early childhood maltreatment is a strong predictor of later maltreatment exposure throughout childhood and into adolescence (i.e., chronic trauma). Moreover, youth who experience chronic trauma are at heightened risk for an array of negative outcomes, including developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Kilpatrick et al., 2003). Thus, it is critical to study maltreatment exposure and related symptoms across the developmental spectrum. The proposed papers will examine unique risk and protective factors among treatment seeking samples of maltreatment-exposed young children and adolescents in Arkansas. Specifically, in the first paper, we will examine the associations between caregiver-reported stress and therapist-observed positive and negative caregiving behaviors in a treatment-seeking sample of young children and their caregiver. We will also examine whether child- and caregiver-factors associated with the trauma impact the nature of these associations. In the second paper, we will examine the link between lifetime and current trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in a treatment-seeking sample of children presenting to child advocacy centers across Arkansas. First, we first examine caregiver-child concordance of trauma exposures and PTSS; next, we will explore how social factors enhance or attenuate the relation between trauma exposure and PTSS. Research with these vulnerable populations is sorely needed and holds the potential to inform and enhance clinical practice with these at-risk children and youth.