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Psychology  2017 

What Happened? Exploring the Relation between Traumatic Stress and Provisional Mental Health Diagnoses for Children and Youth

DOI: 10.4236/psych.2017.814157, PP. 2485-2495

Keywords: Trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences, interRAI, Developmental Trauma Disorder

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Objective: Traumatic stress can impact behaviours and neurological functioning of children and youth, with symptoms appearing similar to behaviours associated with psychiatric diagnoses (Siegfried et al., 2016). This study sought to examine the link between provisional diagnoses and trauma in a sample of children/youth receiving mental health services. Methods: A sample of 6649 children/youth (59% males) aged 4 - 18 years (Mage = 11.99, SD = 3.57) receiving services from 45 mental health agencies in Ontario were assessed using the interRAI Child and Youth Mental Health (ChYMH) instrument (Stewart et al., 2015a). We examined the interRAI Traumatic Life Events Collaborative Action Plan (CAP; Stewart et al., 2015b) and provisional diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), mood disorders, substance-related disorders, and sleep disorders. Results: Compared to boys, girls were more likely to trigger the interRAI Traumatic Life Events CAP and to have a provisional diagnosis of anxiety, mood, and sleep disorders. Boys were more likely to have a provisional diagnosis of ADHD than girls. Multiple logistic regression analyses indicated that boys diagnosed with substance-related disorders had 1.79 higher odds of triggering the interRAI Traumatic Life Events CAP. ADHD, anxiety disorders, RAD, and mood disorders were also each significant predictors of potential traumatic stress regardless of sex. Conclusions/Implications: Findings suggest that several provisional diagnoses were significantly related to potential traumatic stress. Clinicians may find value in assessing for trauma, asking the question “What happened?” when confirming a psychiatric diagnosis in order to determine the best plan of care.


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