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Traumatic and Stressful Events in Early Childhood: Can Treatment Help Those at Highest Risk?

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 35 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2011 Pages: 504-513
Date Published
July 2011
10 pages

This study reanalyzed data from a randomized controlled trial in order to examine whether child-parent psychotherapy (CPP) - an empirically based treatment that focuses on the parent-child relationship as the vehicle for child improvement - is effective for children who have experienced multiple traumatic and stressful life events (TSEs).


The results show that CPP was effective in improving outcomes for children who had experienced four or more TSEs, and it had positive effects for their mothers as well. This suggests that including the parent as an integral participant in a child's treatment may be particularly effective in treating young children who have been exposed to TSEs. For children who had experienced four or more TSEs, those who received CPP showed significantly greater improvements in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms, PTSD diagnosis, number of co-occurring diagnoses, and behavioral problems compared to those in the comparison group. Children with less than four TSEs showed greater improvements in symptoms of PTSD than those in the comparison group. Mothers of children with four or more TSEs in the CPP group showed greater education in symptoms of PTSD and depression than those randomized to the comparison condition. Analyses of 6-month follow-up data suggest improvements were maintained for the high-risk group. Participants consisted of 75 preschool-aged children and their mothers who were referred to treatment following the child's exposure to domestic violence. Child-mother pairs were randomly assigned to CPP or to a comparison group that received monthly case management plus referrals to community services. The children and mothers were assessed at intake, posttest, and 6-month follow-up. Treatment effectiveness was examined by level of child TSE risk exposure (less than four TSEs and four or more TSEs). 3 tables and 58 references

Date Published: July 1, 2011