Trauma and Child Abuse Resource Center

Last updated March 2019

About

Child Abuse ImageChild abuse and violence affect millions of children each year. Child abuse includes physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect. Interpersonal violence is violence between people and includes community violence, partner violence (also called "domestic violence"), and bullying. After abuse or violence many children develop mental health problems including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. These children may also have serious medical problems, learning problems, and problems getting along with friends and family members.

After abuse or violence children need support from their parents and other family members. Sometimes parents are not able to be supportive because they have their own mental health problems; or they may also have been the victims of the abuse or violence. Other parents may have caused the abuse or violence. Children who do not have supportive families or who blame themselves for the abuse or violence are more likely to have serious mental health problems.

However, many children have inner strength and are able to cope well even after abuse or violence.

Choose a topic:



Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is child trauma and child abuse?
  2. What are signs that a child may need help after experiencing abuse or interpersonal violence?
  3. What can a parent do if they suspect that their child is being abused?
  4. How can I help my children after they have been experienced abuse or interpersonal violence?
  5. What is toxic stress?

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Facts for Families

AACAP's Facts for Families provide concise up-to-date information about a variety of issues that affect children, adolescents and families. The following Facts for Families contain information that is especially pertinent to families of children who have experienced abuse or interpersonal violence:

Child Abuse Image Bullying

Child Abuse: The Hidden Bruises

Sexual Abuse

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Foster Care

Domestic Violence and Children

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Responding to Child Sexual Abuse

Anxiety and Children

Depression in Children and Teens

When To Seek Help for Your Child

Where to Find Help for Your Child

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Video Clips

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Clinical Resources

Practice Parameters

Considered resources for experts, mental health professional and physicians, AACAP's Practice Parameters were developed to guide clinical decision making. They show the best treatments and the range of treatment options available to families living with childhood and adolescent mental illness.

Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Management of Youth Involved With the Child Welfare System

AACAP's Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused

AACAP's Practice Parameters for the Assessment and Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

AACAP's Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy and Early Childhood

AACAP's Practice Parameters on the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Depression

AACAP's Practice Parameters on Disaster Preparedness

Information about Treatment Choices
Children who have experienced violence or abuse can be successfully treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy). Though there are no medications to specifically treat abuse, victims often experience anxiety, depression and other disorders that can be successfully treated with medications by a psychiatrist. To learn more about effective psychotherapies for youngsters affected by abuse or violence, please click here.

PTSD Rating Scales

Two rating scales can be used by clinicians to help identify children's or adolescents' exposure to child abuse, interpersonal violence and other traumatic events, to identify PTSD symptoms, and to monitor symptoms. These are the UCLA PTSD Reaction Index (RI) and the Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS). The RI is rated separately by the child or adolescent and a parent; the CPSS is rated only by the child or adolescent.

The Child PTSD Symptom Scale

Additional Clinical Resources
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network developed a resource kit for parents whose children have experienced sexual abuse. Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse. Working with children who have experienced sexual abuse can lead to vicarious trauma or "secondary traumatic stress". 

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Research and Training

Scientific Articles and Information

Traumatic Stress Interacts With Bipolar Disorder Genetic Risk to Increase Risk for Suicide Attempts
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 12, Pages 1073–1080
Published online: October 9, 2017

The Dissociative Subtype of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among Adolescents:Co-Occurring PTSD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Other Dissociation Symptoms
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 12, Pages 1062–1072
Published online: October 5, 2017

Trauma Exposure and Externalizing Disorders in Adolescents: Results From the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 9, Pages 755–764.e3
Published online: July 4, 2017

Intergenerational Transmission of Maternal Childhood Maltreatment Exposure: Implications for Fetal Brain Development
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 5, Pages 373–382
Published online: March 9, 2017

Childhood Trauma and Illicit Drug Use in Adolescence: A Population-Based National Comorbidity Survey Replication–Adolescent Supplement Study
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Published online: May 27 2016

Child Neglect and Maltreatment and Childhood-to-Adulthood Cognition and Mental Health in a Prospective Birth Cohort
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 55, Issue 1, p33–40.e3
Published online: October 30 2015

Default-Mode Network Abnormalities in Pediatric Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 55, Issue 4, p319–327
Published online: February 3 2016

Child Maltreatment and Neural Systems Underlying Emotion Regulation
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 54, Issue 9, p753–762
Published online: June 26 2015

Transforming Trajectories for Traumatized Children
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 53, Issue 1, p9–13
Published in issue: January 2014

Community Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder for Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence
Archive of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
January 2011 - Volume 165 - Issue 1 - pp 16-21

Free training in the TF-CBT treatment model is available to mental health professionals from the TF-CBTWeb training course, available at www.musc.edu/tfcbt.

Child abuse and neglect and intimate partner violence victimization and perpetration: A prospective investigation
Child Abuse & Neglect, 2013

Longitudinal Study on the Effects of Child Abuse and Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence, Parent-Child Attachments, and Antisocial Behavior in Adolescence
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2011

Separating Children From Their Families: Toxic Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Spontaneous Thoughts and Brain Connectivity: Possible Links Between Early Maltreatment and Later Depression
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 9, Pages 634-36
Published online: September 2018

Child Abuse and Neglect
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 9, Pages 637-644
Published online: September 2018

Evidence for Depressogenic Spontaneous Thoughts and Altered Resting-State Connectivity in Adolescents With a Maltreatment History
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 9, Pages 687-695
Published online: September 2018

Early Childhood Adverse Experiences, Inferior Frontal Gyrus Connectivity, and the Trajectory of Externalizing Psychopathology
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 3, Pages 183-190
Published online: March 2018

The Dissociative Subtype of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among Adolescents: Co-Occurring PTSD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Other Dissociation Symptoms
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 12, Pages 1062-1072
Published online: December 2017

Traumatic Stress Interacts With Bipolar Disorder Genetic Risk to Increase Risk for Suicide Attempts
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 12, Pages 1073-1080
Published online: December 2017

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Books

Lucky
Alice Sebold

A Place for Starr: A Story of Hope for Children Experiencing Family Violence
Howard Schor

Please Tell! A Child’s Story About Sexual Abuse
Jessie

Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care
Wilgocki, J& Wright, MK. (2002)

Posttraumatic Play in Children: What Clinicians Need to Know
Michael Scheeringa

For more bibliotherapy resources, visit Living with Mental Illness: Books, Stories and Memoirs.

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Getting Help

Child Abuse ImageGetting help is one of the most important things a parent can do for a child with a mental health concern. This is especially important after exposure to a trauma such as child abuse or interpersonal violence, but often in these situations seeking professional help is the last thing on parents' minds because so many other things are going on in the family.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders that affect children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, and at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children and adolescents.

Click here to find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.

Oftentimes, parents are unsure when to seek a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist. For more information on when to seek a referral, please click here.

To learn more about understanding mental health insurance, please click here.

Services In School For Children With Special Needs: What Parents Need To Know

Resources for Parents and Foster Parents
If your child has experienced child abuse, the following resources may be helpful:

Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Sexual Abuse Committee developed a series of fact sheets providing information about different aspects of child sexual abuse.  

For Foster Parents:
In addition to child abuse and violence exposure, many children in foster care struggle with the uncertainty about their future related to placement issues. This book helps children in foster care and their foster parents to address this issue more openly:

Wilgocki, J& Wright, MK. (2002) Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association. Available at www.amazon.com.

Related Websites

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