Trauma and Neurodevelopmental Disorders from a Public Health Perspective

  • Sarah R. LoweEmail author
  • Kate L. Walsh
  • Emma Opthof
  • Petty Tineo


This chapter reviews trauma-related and neurodevelopmental disorders from a public health perspective, with a particular attention to the epidemiology of trauma exposure and associated mental health conditions. The epidemiologic literature suggests that over half of children will have experienced one or more traumatic events by adolescence and that low socioeconomic status, prior trauma exposure, and mental health conditions consistently increase risk for exposure. A sizeable minority of trauma-exposed youth go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, with female gender, low socioeconomic status, more severe exposure, and events involving interpersonal violence increasing the likelihood of this condition. Other trauma-related disorders, including acute stress disorder, bereavement-related disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and disinhibited social engagement disorder, have been relatively less explored in the epidemiologic literature, and thus their prevalence and risk factors are unknown. Neurodevelopmental disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder, share symptoms with trauma- and stressor-related disorders and can complicate differential diagnosis, although few population-based studies address this issue. However, epidemiologic studies suggest that neurodevelopmental disorders, already prevalent among children generally, may be (a) more common among children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those exposed to trauma and (b) are highly comorbid with anxiety, depression, and trauma-related conditions. Public health interventions to prevent and mitigate trauma-related and neurodevelopmental disorders, including primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention efforts, are discussed. However, the full mental health impact of trauma exposure on youth has yet to be appreciated, and further research is needed to explore the extent to which trauma-related disorders co-occur with neurodevelopmental disorders in the general population.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah R. Lowe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kate L. Walsh
    • 2
  • Emma Opthof
    • 1
  • Petty Tineo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  2. 2.Ferkauf Graduate School of PsychologyBronxUSA

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