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Childhood trauma linked to higher rates of mental health problems, Stanford/Packard finds
Date:6/8/2011

STANFORD, Calif. New research has shown that children's risk for learning and behavior problems and obesity rises in correlation to their level of trauma exposure, says the psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital who oversaw the study. The findings could encourage physicians to consider diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder rather than attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which has similar symptoms to PTSD but very different treatment.

The study examined children living in a violent, low-income neighborhood and documented an unexpectedly strong link between abuse, trauma and neglect and the children's mental and physical health: It reported, for instance, that children experiencing four types of trauma were 30 times more likely to have behavior and learning problems than those not exposed to trauma.

"In communities where there is violence, where children are exposed to events such as shootings in their neighborhoods, kids experience a constant environmental threat," said senior author Victor Carrion, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. "Contrary to some people's belief, these children don't get used to trauma. These events remain stressful and impact children's physiology."

The new study is being published online today in Child Abuse & Neglect; The International Journal. Carrion collaborated on the research with scientists at the University of New Orleans and the Bayview Child Health Center, part of San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center.

The findings provide compelling evidence that pediatricians should routinely screen children for trauma exposures, said Carrion, who is also a child psychiatrist at Packard Children's.

"As simple as it may seem, physicians do not ask about trauma," he said. "And kids get the wrong diagnoses."

The study builds on earlier work that linked worsening he
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Contact: Erin Digitale
digitale@stanford.edu
650-724-9175
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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