Factors That Moderate Trauma

Risk Factors

A risk factor is a variable that is associated with a negative outcome such as higher risk for disorders.

Overall, the earlier age of child abuse and the longer the child is maltreated, the worse the outcome [1]. Chronic child maltreatment is a serious risk factor for a wide range of social, psychological, and medical problems across the lifespan, as demonstrated in a controlled, prospective study that followed children for 15 years and controlled for potentially confounding variables such as economic status and parental mental health problems [2].

Additionally, women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and they are more likely to have chronic PTSD than men (22% of women versus 6% of men) [6] [7].

Protective Factors

Some variables have been identified as protective factors that are associated with relative resiliency to childhood maltreatment [3].  Resiliency is more common among maltreated children who have a supportive caregiver [4].  Adults who were maltreated in childhood have been found to be more resilient when they have a supportive partner and/or a stable living situation [4]. Family and community factors play a larger role in predicting resiliency than do factors related to maltreated children [4] [5].

[1] Lieberman, A. F., Chu, A., Van Horn, P., & Harris, W. W. (2011). Trauma in early childhood: Empirical evidence and clinical implications. Development and Psychopathology, 23(02), 397-410. 

[2] Jonson-Reid, M., Kohl, P. L., & Drake, B. (2012). Child and adult outcomes of chronic child maltreatment. Pediatrics, 129(5), 839-845.

[3] Fairbank, J. A., Putnam, F. W., & Harris, W. W. (2014). Child traumatic stress: Prevalence, trends, risk and impact. In M. J. Friedman, T. M. Keane, P. A. Resick (Eds.), Handbook of PTSD: Science and practice (pp. 121-145). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.

[4] Afifi, T. O., & MacMillan, H. L. (2011). Resilience following child maltreatment: A review of protective factors. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(5), 266-272.

[5] Jaffee, S. R., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Polo-Tomas, M., & Taylor, A. (2007). Individual, family, and neighborhood factors distinguish resilient from non-resilient maltreated children: A cumulative stressors model. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31(3), 231-253.

[6] Breslau, N., & Davis, G. C. (1992). Posttraumatic stress disorder in an urban population of young adults: Risk factors for chronicity. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 149(5), 671-675.

[7] Frans, Ö., Rimmö, P. A., Åberg, L., & Fredrikson, M. (2005). Trauma exposure and post‐traumatic stress disorder in the general population. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 111(4), 291-290.