Children are often exposed to traumatic events such as illness or car accidents. It is thought that 40% of children exposed to trauma go on to develop acute stress disorder which can be a precursor to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Current theories about PTSD in adults emphasise the importance of negative appraisals of events in causing the development of the condition, with people who feel themselves to be vulnerable or the world to be unsafe being more at risk of developing PTSD. Social support from friends and family is thought to protect against the development of PTSD as friends and family can challenge negative beliefs, help to find solutions and encourage constructive behaviour. Researchers from Flinders University looked to see whether these theories were true in children in a study of 97 people aged between 7 and 17 who had been admitted to A&E departments. The study found that negative beliefs about the accident were strongly linked to both acute stress and depression symptoms. Social support helped to reduce negative beliefs and to prevent depression but did not stop the children from developing acute stress.
Ellis, Alicia A., Nixon, Reginald D.V. and Williamson, Paul - The effects of social support and negative appraisals on acute stress symptoms and depression in children and adolescents British Journal of Clinical Psychology November 2009, 48(4), 347-361