Psychiatric disorders in students in six French universities: 12-month prevalence, comorbidity, impairment and help-seeking
OBJECTIVE The authors prospectively examined childhood antecedents of exposure to traumatic events to estimate the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among those exposed to trauma. METHOD Two consecutive cohorts of children entering first grade of a public school system in a large mid-Atlantic city in the mid-1980s were followed into young adulthood (mean age=21). Exposure to traumatic events and PTSD were assessed in 75% of the original cohort (N=1,698). Childhood assessments, conducted upon entry into the first grade, included standardized measures of reading readiness, teacher ratings of behavioral problems, and child self-reports about depression and anxiety. Family characteristics were assessed by parental report. RESULTS Young adults who had been rated by their first grade teacher as having aggressive/disruptive behavior problems were more likely to experience traumatic assaultive violence events (e.g., being mugged/threatened with a weapon, badly beaten-up) (relative risk=2.6) but not PTSD following trauma exposure. Youths with high levels of self-rated depressive and anxious feelings in first grade were more likely to experience PTSD once exposed to trauma (relative risk=1.5). Youths who scored in the highest quartile on a reading test in the first grade were at lower risk for exposure to assaultive violence traumas. CONCLUSIONS Childhood behavioral and depressive/anxious problems may influence the risk for PTSD directly by increasing the vulnerability to the PTSD effects of trauma exposure, and indirectly by increasing the likelihood of exposure to assaultive violence.