Paper: Accumulated Childhood Trauma and Symptom Complexity

I love when I find full scientific papers for free online!

The Journal of Traumatic Stress has published a paper entitled, Accumulated Childhood Trauma and Symptom Complexity by John Briere [Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network] and Stacey Kaltman and Bonnie L. Green, Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, DC.

The relationship between accumulated exposure to different types of traumatic events (cumulative trauma) in childhood and the total number of different types of symptomatology reported  (symptom complexity) in adulthood was examined in a sample of 2,453 female university students. There was a linear relationship between the number of trauma types experienced by participants before 18 and symptom complexity. This effect remained even when controlling for specific traumatic events, suggesting a generalized effect of cumulative trauma.

The authors explored the effects of multiple traumas in childhood, using twelve trauma types.  Doing a quick check of my own trauma inventory, I realized that I experienced nine of these trauma types, some of them repeatedly, for years.  It’s no wonder that my symptoms compounded, especially given the added experience of multiple traumas in my adult life.

The clumsy process of my psychological recovery makes a bit more sense to me, especially given the fact that some of the traumas overlap, or are related to each other somehow.  Treating Complex PTSD is already a difficult process, treating Complex PTSD with multiple trauma types is even more challenging.

The authors also provide a conclusion that rape and physical abuse traumas are unique indicators for complex psychological symptoms, which — in my opinion — are further compounded when those traumas occur in a familial setting.

The authors do not provide conclusions on therapy or recovery in this paper.