Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 10, pp 1528-1542

First online:

Caregiver and Youth Agreement Regarding Youths’ Trauma Histories: Implications for Youths’ Functioning After Exposure to Trauma

  • Matthew OranskyAffiliated withThe New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to ChildrenYale University Child Study Center Email author 
  • , Hilary HahnAffiliated withYale University Child Study Center
  • , Carla Smith StoverAffiliated withYale University Child Study Center

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Epidemiological research has demonstrated that youth are exposed to potentially traumatic events at high rates. Caregivers play an important role in youths’ successful recovery following exposures to potentially traumatic events. However, past research has documented poor caregiver–youth agreement regarding youths’ exposures to potentially traumatic events, indicating a potential lack of support for many youth exposed to such events. This study examined caregiver–youth discrepancies in the reports of youths’ lifetime exposures to potentially traumatic events, and the relationship between these reporting discrepancies and youths’ post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, mood symptoms, and functional impairment following disclosures of sexual abuse. Participants included 114 caregiver–youth dyads participating in a family-based intervention at four Child Advocacy Centers in New York City. Standardized measures of trauma history, youth PTSD symptoms, youth mood symptoms, youth functional impairment, and caregiver PTSD symptoms were given in interview format to caregivers and youth at the time of intake into the intervention. The demographic composition of the youth sample was 86.8 % female, 13.2 % male, 32.5 % African American, 54.4 % Latino/a, 2.6 % Caucasian, 0.9 % Asian American, 8.8 % other race/ethnicity. Youth ranged in age from 7 to 16. Results demonstrated poor agreement between youth and caregivers regarding youths’ exposure to a range of potentially traumatic events and regarding youths’ PTSD symptoms, mood symptoms and functional impairment. Both caregiver–youth discrepancies regarding youths’ histories of exposures to potentially traumatic events and caregiver PTSD symptoms were significantly associated with youths’ self-reported symptoms and functional impairment. Only caregiver PTSD symptoms were related to caregivers’ reports of youths’ symptoms and functional impairment. Findings underscore the importance of family support and communication regarding exposures to potentially traumatic events and the detrimental associations of caregiver–youth disagreement about youths’ exposures to potentially traumatic events. Recommendations are provided for the assessment and treatment of families presenting in the aftermath of traumatic exposures.


Trauma Informant discrepancies Family support Communication PTSD