Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children and adolescents occurs as a result of a child’s exposure to 1 or more traumatic events: actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. The victim may experience the event, witness it, learn about it from close family members or friends, or experience repeated or extreme exposue to aversive details of the event. Potentially traumatic events include physical or sexual assaults, natural disasters, and accidents.
The impact of single-incident trauma (such as a car accident or being beaten up) is different from that of chronic trauma such as ongoing child abuse. In addition to the symptoms of PTSD, sexual assaults have widespread impacts on the victim's psychological functioning and development. Abuse by a caretaker also creates special problems.