Trauma in Hispanic Youth With Psychiatric Symptoms: Investigating Gender and Family Effects

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Abstract

Objective: Hispanic youth in the general community experience traumatic events and display symptoms of psychological distress more frequently than do Caucasian youth. However, little is known about how traumatic experiences in this ethnic minority population relate to psychopathology in clinical samples and whether these outcomes vary by gender and are impacted by family functioning. We hypothesized that traumatic stress reactions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and internalizing and externalizing symptoms, would vary by gender and by family functioning in a clinical sample of Hispanic youth. Method: The current study utilized baseline data from a randomized clinical trial (RCT) involving 200 Hispanic adolescents (122 boys and 78 girls) referred to treatment for experiencing clinical symptoms of 1 or more behavioral disorders and conflictual family relations. The rate of traumatic events, differences in outcomes depending on trauma exposure, and the effects gender, family functioning, and trauma on psychopathology and PTSD symptoms were examined. Results: Analyses revealed that 61% of Hispanic youth in this clinical sample experienced at least 1 traumatic event. Although only 12% of the sample reported PTSD scores in the clinical range, girls reported higher PTSD scores than did boys. Poor family cohesion was particularly detrimental to girls compared with boys and related to internalizing and PTSD symptoms. High family conflict predicted PTSD symptoms in boys but not in girls. Conclusions: These findings have clinical implications for working with Hispanic populations, suggesting that culturally sensitive interventions should incorporate family-based interventions for individuals who experience trauma to strengthen family bonds and decrease family conflict.

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