Child Trauma and Resource Families
This information was originally published on the website of the Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support. Reproduced by permission of Casey Family Programs.
We have been seeing more and more information lately about
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by children
who have been abused or neglected, or who have witnessed domestic
violence. Unfortunately, most of the children who live with
resource families fall into that group. A recent study1
found that about one-third of the children studied who had
been physically abused, and over half who had been both physically
and sexually abused, showed symptoms of PTSD.
At the same time, we are starting to hear about "secondary
traumatic stress" among child welfare workers and parents
of children with PTSD.
PTSD and Secondary Traumatic Stress are similar, but also
PTSD is a clinical diagnosis that describes a set of symptoms
associated with exposure to a traumatic event. These symptoms
are directly connected to the primary victim or the individual
who was exposed to or experienced the trauma.
Secondary Traumatic Stress is "the stress resulting
from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering
person."2 SecondaryTraumatic Stress can effect
a person who is a professional, friend or family member. The
symptoms felt by the individual suffering from Secondary Traumatic
Stress can be nearly identical to those of the primary victim
he or she is trying to help.
The difference between PTSD and Secondary Trauma is that
the primary victim of trauma suffers from PTSD while the person
in a helping/listening role suffers from Secondary Traumatic
For more information
This page provides an overview of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder, including symptoms and resources for working
This page addresses the needs that both children and
adults have for dealing with terrorism. It provides
reading and resources for children and adults facing
trauma that has resulted from terrorism
1Prevalence of post traumatic stress disorder
and other psychiatric diagnoses in three groups of abused
children (sexual, physical, and both)
Ackerman, P. T., Newton, J. E., McPherson, W. B., Jones,
J. G., & Dykman, R. A. (1998). Prevalence of post
traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric diagnoses
in three groups of abused children (sexual, physical,
and both). Child Abuse & Neglect 22, 759-774.
2Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary
traumatic stress in those who treat the traumatized
Figley, C.R. (Ed.) (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping
with secondary traumatic stress in those who treat the
traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Last updated 03/05/05