Statement of Purpose It is common for posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) to decline after a traumatic event; symptom persistence can herald the development of PTSD. Understanding factors related to the PTSS trajectory for violently injured youth may provide novel opportunities for early intervention. We describe the change in PTSS over the first few weeks following a violence-related injury, and explore characteristics associated with these changes.
Methods At two time points following interpersonal assault (T0 and T1), violently injured youth ages 8–18 completed either a self- or telephone-administered survey that included demographics and the Child PTSD Symptom Scale-5, CPSS. We summarized changes in CPSS scores between T0 and T1, and examined bivariate associations between demographics and PTSS change.
Results We assessed 75 youth seen in the ED for a violent injury soon after the event and again within 2 months of the ED visit. Mean participant age was 14±2 years, 51% were female, 92% African-American. Youth completed the initial CPSS (T0) an average of 6(+6) days after ED visit and youth completed the follow-up CPSS (T1) an average of 15(¬+11) days after T0. Median CPSS scores were 22 at T0 and 18 at T1 (NS), with half of youth reporting a higher PTSS score (median change=+7) and half either unchanged or lower (median change=-8) at T1. Age or gender, did not differ between youth whose PTSS worsened and those who improved.
Conclusions Youth who experience violent injury exhibit moderate levels of PTSS; whether these improve or worsen in the weeks following injury is not associated with age or gender.
Significance and Contributions to Injury and Violence Prevention A large proportion of violently injured youth report worsening PTSS over time suggesting a need for early intervention. Future efforts are needed to identify youth at greatest risk for escalation of PTSS.
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