Measuring trauma: considerations for assessing complex and non-PTSD Criterion A childhood trauma

The current definition of a traumatic event in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013) may be too narrow to describe the myriad of difficult childhood experiences. Furthermore, youth may develop a distinct pattern of symptoms in relation to complex or multiple childhood trauma experiences, the proposed developmental trauma disorder (DTD, B. A. van der Kolk, 2005 ) We developed and utilized a new measure, the Potentially Traumatic Experiences Questionnaire (PTEQ), to assess patterns in childhood trauma exposure. We used 2 item formats (open ended vs. closed ended) in order to explore potential differences in reporting. Furthermore, we assessed for symptoms associated with DTD following exposure to complex childhood trauma in a sample of adolescents. Participants were 186 adolescents ages 18 and 19 years old who were asked to report retrospectively on their difficult childhood experiences. The results showed that participants reported multiple events that would not be considered traumatic according to DSM-5 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Criterion A, and those who completed the PTEQ with closed-ended items reported more differentiated trauma types than participants who completed the open-ended questionnaire. Also, participants who reported multiple or chronic events were more likely to endorse symptoms associated with DTD. This study has implications for the diagnosis and treatment of complex trauma experiences in youth

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McDonald MK,Borntrager CF,Rostad W, | 2014
Journal of Trauma & Dissociation | 15 | 2 | 184-203