The Relation of Exposure to Traumatic Events and Longitudinal Mental Health Outcomes for Children Enrolled in Systems of Care: Results from a National System of Care Evaluation

Melissa L. Whitson, Christian Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined the relation between children's history of exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and clinical and functional mental health trajectories over a 18-month period among a national sample of youth referred for services in children's behavioral health systems of care (SOCs). Using data from the national evaluation of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services program for communities funded from 1997 to 2000, the study sample included 9556 children and their families. Latent growth modeling was used to assess the effect of history of exposure to PTEs on trajectories in a number of behavioral health outcomes during the 3-year period following referral to services, controlling for child demographic characteristics (gender, race, and age). Results revealed that, on average, children in SOCs exhibited significant improvements over time on all four outcome measures. Children with a history of exposure to PTEs had higher rates of internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors and functional impairments and fewer behavioral and emotional strengths at baseline, but experienced improvements in these outcomes at the same rates as children without exposure to a traumatic event. Finally, child race, gender, and age also were associated with differences in behavioral health trajectories among service recipients. Implications for SOCs, including approaches to make them more trauma-informed, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-390
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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