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Medical News & Perspectives
August 1, 2001

Psychiatrists Explore Legacy of Traumatic Stress in Early Life

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JAMA. 2001;286(5):523-526. doi:10.1001/jama.286.5.523-JMN0801-2-1

New Orleans—Some children and adolescents live in areas beset by war. Others are caught up in earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Some are hurt in car crashes, and some develop cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. Some witness deaths or are wounded by shootings on the street or even at school. Some are harmed by strangers and some by those closest to them. Some commit acts of violence themselves.

Psychiatrists and others who contend with the sequelae of traumatic stressors on the young have plenty of work to do. They must conduct age-appropriate assessments, weigh the reliability of children's memories of traumatic events, try to heal psychological wounds, and sometimes testify in court about the severity of a child's injuries and the prognosis for that child's future. Research in progress aims to identify brain pathways involved in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to follow traumatized children into adulthood.

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