Although early adolescence is increasingly recognized as commencing a sensitive period for social development, little research exists on the impact of trauma exposure during this juncture. We hypothesized that trauma experienced during early adolescence would be particularly disruptive to the acquisition of social skills necessary for healthy future relationships. Among 1500 boys from the National Comorbidity Study Adolescent Supplement, we examined trauma exposure across developmental periods on interpersonal outcomes in late adolescence. Most (62.3%) participants reported prior exposure to at least one potentially traumatic event, and rates of such exposures generally increased linearly over time with a relative spike in exposure occurring at age 15. Trauma exposure during early adolescence, but not other developmental periods, uniquely predicted boys’ perpetration of physical teen dating violence (TDV; OR = 2.2) and broader social problems (B = 2.061, SE =.091) in late adolescence. In contrast, and consistent with existing literature, trauma exposure early in development and during mid-adolescence predicted late adolescence conduct disorder diagnoses. At least in the context of early adolescent exposure, the link between trauma and TDV perpetration may be conceptualized within a broader framework of social competence rather than oft-purported antisociality. Early adolescence may present opportunities for targeted prevention of TDV and broader social problems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Emergency Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine