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Parental cognition and the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms in children

Bailie, Richard James; (2004) Parental cognition and the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms in children. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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The study looks at cognitions in parents that are hypothesised to be associated with the development of Post-Traumatic Stress in their children. As the main caregivers to young children, parents are known to play a key role in supporting their child's coping following trauma. There is a significant lack of knowledge about the specific mechanisms that distinguish parents who are able to effectively help their children resolve a trauma from those who are not. Specifically little is known about the parental cognitions that help or hinder a parent in providing support to children in distress following a trauma. An improved understanding of these cognitions may shed light on the familial processes that increase risk for PTS in children and may in the future help to improve therapeutic interventions for children with PTS or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Children attending accident and emergency departments following a potentially traumatic event (road traffic accident, fall, bum or assault) were seen with a parent within a month of the event, and at follow-up 3 months after the event. Self- report assessments of parental cognitions related to the event and to the child's coping were obtained. A battery of questionnaires on past traumatic experiences, current physical and mental health including PTSD symptoms was administered at time 1 to both parent and child. At time 2, outcome measures were re-administered. The hypotheses are (one) the presence of mental health problems, (two) trauma history and (three) specific parental cognitions about talking not being useful will predict a poorer child mental health outcome. The parental cognitions include endorsing statements that talking is not useful, talking upsets the parent, talking upsets the child and that they have not talked with their child about the trauma. The results are analysed using correlations and linear regression. An association was found between parental mental health and child mental health consistent with hypothesis 1. However this association was only present using the parent report measures of child mental health rather than the child report measures. An association was also found between a parental trauma history and poorer child mental health outcome, consistent with hypothesis 2. However as with hypothesis 1, the association was only present when child mental health was measured via a parental report measure. Finally parental distress and attitudes about talking were both significantly associated with the parent's report of the child's depression and the parents report of whether they had talked to their child about the traumatic event was significantly associated with the parent's report of the child's intrusion and avoidance symptoms. These results are discussed in light of the literature on parental mental health and parental cognitions. Limitations of the study are highlighted alongside areas for future research.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Parental cognition and the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms in children
Identifier: PQ ETD:602635
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446710
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