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Psychologisches Institut Gesundheitspsychologie des Kindes- und Jugendalters

Dysfunctional posttraumatic cognitions

Dysfunctional posttraumatic cognitions in children and adolescents


Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. M. Landolt,

Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Duration of project: December 2015 – August 2019


Dysfunctional trauma-related cognitions play an important role in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Children and adolescents, who think that the experienced trauma has a permanent and disturbing impact on their actual life and their future, feel threatened. Study results show that negative posttraumatic cognitions correlate highly with posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), depression, and anxiety. In addition, children and adolescents with a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have significantly more dysfunctional cognitions than those without PTSD. Especially for children and adolescents it is important to consider interacting developmental and environmental factors. A developmental approach, nevertheless, has not been investigated yet.

The aims of the proposed study are to achieve a better understanding of dysfunctional trauma-related cognitions considering child and environmental factors in a cross-sectional and a longitudinal design.

The sample consists of two different subsamples: 1) A hospital sample consisting of children and adolescents (school age: 7–18 years), who experienced an accidental trauma (either acute traffic accident or burn injury) assessed at three times: in the acute phase (7–14 days), 3 months, and 6 months after the trauma occurred. 2) An already existing clinical sample of 159 children and adolescents (TreatChildTrauma study), who mostly experienced an interpersonal trauma such as sexual or physical abuse. The total sample will be used to investigate the impact of child and environmental factors including trauma type, trauma frequency, age, gender, risk status pre trauma (psychopathological status pre trauma and traumatic events pre trauma), psychopathological status post trauma, and parental trauma-related cognitions. In addition, the hospital sample will be used for assessing the naturalistic time course of dysfunctional trauma-related cognitions as well as the association between cognitions, PTSS, depression, and anxiety over time. Moreover, the association between parental trauma-related cognitions and altered parenting as well as their impact on the children’s cognition will be investigated.