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10-09-2015 | Uitgave 5/2016

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 5/2016

Traumatic Life Events and Psychopathology in a High Risk, Ethnically Diverse Sample of Young Children: A Person-Centered Approach

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 5/2016
Melissa J. Hagan, Michael J. Sulik, Alicia F. Lieberman
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s10802-015-0078-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Studies of the association between traumatic experiences and psychopathology in early childhood have primarily focused on specific types of events (e.g., sexual abuse) or aggregated different types of events without differentiating among them. We extend this body of work by investigating patterns of traumatic event exposure in a high-risk, ethnically diverse sample of children ages 3–6 (N = 211; 51 % female) and relating these different patterns to parents’ reports of child externalizing, internalizing, and post-traumatic stress symptomatology. Using latent class analysis, which divides a heterogeneous population into homogenous subpopulations, we identified three patterns of traumatic events based on parents’ responses to an interview-based assessment of trauma exposure in young children: (1) severe exposure, characterized by a combination of family violence and victimization; (2) witnessing family violence without victimization; and (3) moderate exposure, characterized by an absence of family violence but a moderate probability of other events. The severe exposure class exhibited elevated internalizing and post-traumatic stress symptoms relative to the witness to violence and moderate exposure classes, controlling for average number of traumatic events. Results highlight the need for differentiation between profiles of traumatic life event exposure and the potential for person-centered methods to complement the cumulative risk perspective.

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Table S1 (DOCX 18 kb)
Table S2 (DOCX 16 kb)
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