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More Study Needed to Help Kids Cope with Trauma

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Far more data is needed on how best to help children cope with traumatic events--ranging from natural disasters to school shootings to death or family illness--researchers argue in an article published in the journal Pediatrics.  From NBC News:

Grief counselors, therapists and social workers have no body of scientific data to draw from when they seek to help traumatized kids, a team of experts reports in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"People come to me and say 'What works?' and I answer, 'We don't really know,'" says Valerie Forman-Hoffman of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who led the study.

"I don't think that what this study is saying is that no treatment works," Forman-Hoffman said in a telephone interview. "I think that what our review shows is that we don't have a good evidence base to make good recommendations."

The need is clear, Forman-Hoffman and her colleagues say.

"Approximately two-thirds of children and adolescents younger than age 18 years will experience at least one traumatic event, creating a critical need to identify effective child trauma interventions," they wrote. Traumatic events in this study included the death of a parent, a violent incident at school, wars, or natural disasters. They did not include personal events such as abuse by a parent or sexual abuse.

"Although some children exposed to trauma do not experience long-term negative consequences in terms of psychological and social functioning, many later develop traumatic stress syndromes, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),"  they added. PTSD in turn can cause depression, and lead to substance abuse, suicide and behavior disorders.

Image: Girl with grief counselor, via Shutterstock

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