Exposure to childhood maltreatment (CM) increases the risk of psychiatric morbidity in youths. The new Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) diagnosis captures the heterogeneity and complexity of clinical outcomes observed in youths exposed to CM. This study explores CPTSD symptomatology and its association with clinical outcomes, considering the impact of CM subtypes and age of exposure.
Exposure to CM and clinical outcomes were evaluated in 187 youths aged 7-17 (116 with psychiatric disorder; 71 healthy controls) following the Tools for Assessing the Severity of Situations in which Children are Vulnerable (TASSCV) structured interview criteria. CPTSD symptomatology was explored by confirmatory factor analysis, considering four subdomains: post-traumatic stress symptoms, emotion dysregulation, negative self-concept and interpersonal problems.
Youths exposed to CM (with or without psychiatric disorders) showed greater internalizing, externalizing and other symptomatology, worse premorbid adjustment and poorer overall functioning. Youth with psychiatric disorder and exposed to CM reported more CPTSD symptomatology, psychiatric comorbidity and polypharmacy and earlier onset of cannabis use. Different subtypes of CM and the developmental stage of exposure differentially impact CPTSD subdomains.
Small percentage of resilient youths was studied. It was not possible to explore specific interactions between diagnostic categories and CM. Direct inference cannot be assumed.
Gathering information on type and age of exposure to CM is clinically useful to understand the complexity of psychiatric symptoms observed in youths. Inclusion of the CPTSD diagnosis should increase the implementation of early specific interventions, improving youths’ functioning and reducing the severity of clinical outcomes.
Age of CM exposure; Childhood maltreatment (CM); Complex PTSD (CPTSD); Subtypes of CM; Youth psychopathology.
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