Screening children with a history of maltreatment for PTSD in front line social care organisations: An explorative study

Michael Duffy*, Colm Walsh, Ciaran Mulholland, Gavin Davidson, Paul Best, Lisa Bunting, Stephen Herron, Paul Quinn, Catherine Gillanders, Caroline Sheehan, John Devaney

*Corresponding author for this work

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Traumatic experiences during childhood are common often leading to chronic mental health conditions such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The primary aim of this study was to determine whether a well-validated screening tool for PTSD administered in front line services effectively identifies diagnosable PTSD in young people with a history of maltreatment. In total, 141 young people in community care settings were screened using three screening instruments (CRIES-8, GAD-2 and PHQ-2). Participants described a range of adverse life events (2.8) with 44.2 per cent (n = 46) experiencing at least one form of interpersonal trauma. 72.3 per cent (n = 102) screened for probable PTSD of which 64.7 per cent were subsequently agreed by mental health assessments. Further, 36.9 per cent (n = 52) and 46.8 per cent (n = 66) met the threshold for probable depression and anxiety respectively. Three items, (a) a history of being on the child protection register, (b) previous mental health contact, and (c) Interpersonal index trauma, were associated with positive PTSD screens. Interpersonal traumas were also associated with higher risks of offending. It seems feasible to use screening measures effectively within frontline social care services if staff are provided with appropriate training and support to identify young people with PTSD who may benefit from evidence-based mental health therapies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-611
Number of pages18
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number6
Early online date22 Dec 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 Dec 2021


  • Special Issue Article
  • Special Issue Articles
  • adolescents
  • child maltreatment
  • children
  • neglect
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • screening


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