Design your child trauma study

Investigators face a number of key decisions when designing a prospective study of children exposed to potentially traumatic acute events.

The investigator's specific research questions, as well as the type of acute traumatic event(s), and developmental and cultural considerations for the trauma-exposed children who will participate in the study will inform the researcher's choices in each of the following areas.

Select outcomes to be assessed

  • Posttraumatic stress symptoms
  • Other post-trauma mental health difficulties
  • Posttraumatic growth or resilience
  • Functional outcomes (HRQoL, academic, social)
  • Health outcomes

Consider number and timing of research assessments

  • In relation to the index event, and any potentially recurring events
  • In relation to hypothesized etiological mechanisms (i.e., risk and protective factors)
  • In relation to an expected or hypothesized trajectory of symptoms and recovery

Consider most appropriate sources of data / information 

  • Children reporting on their own experiences and symptoms
  • Parents (or other family members) reporting about the child and/or themselves
  • Data from other records - e.g., medical / health records, school / academic records
  • Observational data based on research tasks or naturalistic observations
  • Physiological data and biological specimens

Thoughtfully select measures for traumatic stress and related symptoms

  • What is the modality of assessment (e.g., interview vs checklist)?
  • Does the measure yield a diagnostic determination, continuous severity score, and/or a determination of clinically significant symptoms?
  • Who is the reporter / source of information?
    • Child self-report is the gold standard for children of school age and older.
    • Parent report is essential for younger children and often valuable for older children.

Learn more about measures used in studies included in the PACT/R Data Archive