When coping with a psychiatric condition or trauma, it is not uncommon for individuals to seek assistance. When dealing with trauma and its long-term consequences, friends and professional therapists may be invaluable resources. People from many walks of life are touched by a traumatized victim’s tale (Marsac & Ragsdale, 2020). Trauma to caregivers frequently has behavioral consequences that children unintentionally encounter. If a parent has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the child may ultimately suffer mental anguish, even if the youngster did not see the traumatic incident directly (Kellogg et al., 2018). When someone learns about the personal trauma experiences of another, they are put under emotional pressure, which is known as secondary traumatic stress. The trauma of maltreatment, violence, environmental catastrophes, and other unpleasant experiences affects over ten million American children every year (Secondary traumatic stress, n.d.b). Behavioral and emotional issues resulting from these events may have long-term effects on children’s lives, putting them in touch with child-serving professionals.
Trauma responses or PTSD may be “passed on” to children in two ways. For example, secondary trauma may be passed down through the generations in perhaps the most technical sense-via one’s DNA. Despite the fact that the idea is still in its infancy, a recent study has shown that PTSD may be handed down from one generation to the next (Smoller, 2016). For the most part, children who experience first-hand circumstances have close acquaintances or distant relatives. There is a lot of touch and interaction between them, and this affects their mental health. Such exposures may result in PTSD. Traumatic childhood experiences and early life stressors are associated with an increased incidence of behavioral and health issues in children (Akinsulure‐Smith et al., 2018). Also, the authors added that traumatic stress contact has often had a link to emotional fatigue, depersonalization, eating disorder, sleep disruption and decreased self-esteem due to burnout.
It is critical to screen and evaluate children because it gives parents the chance to intervene and alter the course of their child’s life. Listening to the tales of traumatized children may be emotionally draining for psychiatrists, child welfare professionals, caseworkers, and other professional experts who deal with traumatized youngsters (Menschner & Maul, 2016). Protecting workers’ health and guaranteeing that children get the best medical service from those dedicated to assisting them begins with raising awareness regarding the consequences of indirect victimization among supervisors and employees alike.
Secondary PTSD in children must be explored and analyzed to discover an effective method to protect children’s mental welfare and subsequent generations in the United States and abroad. It is important to examine the children of veterans who have PTSD (Katz, 2019). Additionally, the study analyzes ten different pieces of literature to enhance the understanding of the complex topic. Specifically, incorporating the facts from all the sources can help identify the specific factors exposing children to secondary PTSD and the negative consequences associated with the condition. Thus, this short discourse takes advantage of a mixed methodology to understand the complexity of this issue. The presented facts offer a foundation for future studies seek to create awareness amongst the community members. [See figure 1 that illustrates the conceptual framework].
What Causes Secondary Traumatic Stress in Children?
To delve more into this topic, it is important to understand what exactly causes secondary childhood trauma. According to medical specialists, parental genes and contact with someone who has firsthand PTSD are critical contributors to the disorder. Trauma survivors might pass on secondary stress disorder to their children and grandchildren (Marsac & Ragsdale, 2020). In addition, talking to or listening to a disturbed person might harm the listener’s psychological health and perhaps set off the illness (Malarbi et al., 2017).
It is not uncommon for children to be exposed to their parents’ distress merely because of their proximity. Children who hear their parents discussing, mentally reliving, or demonstrating signs of PTSD after experiencing trauma may begin to exhibit trauma responses of their own (Secondary traumatic stress, n.d.a). Numerous triggers cause the rush of memories, including sounds, images, smells, and in some cases nothing at all. These traumatic events are frequently accompanied by strong emotions such as fear, sorrow, and rage, and they might feel so vivid that the person with PTSD believes the incident is repeating itself (Malarbi et al., 2017). Even if it is difficult for a caregiver to go through the trauma all over again, their young ones who witness it can be worried and confused.
How does Secondary PTSD Affect a Child?
The other question relates to how secondary PTSD affects children, and how can a medical practitioner tell if a patient has PTSD. The symptoms of vicarious trauma can range in severity from mild to severe. Some of the less severe symptoms include insomnia and food issues. On the other hand, stress, worry, and negative behavioral and emotional alterations are severe indicators and symptoms (Smoller, 2016).
Anxiety and physical ailments, such as tiredness and a weaker immune system, can result from secondary PTSD in youngsters. When the first symptoms of a mental illness are noticed, parents should take their children to see a mental health professional immediately (Secondary trauma effects on teens and young adults, 2020). Secondary PTSD necessitates treatment, and like any other illness or condition. This condition can be prevented and treated with the support of psychotherapists (Meiser‐Stedman et al., 2017). Compassion fatigue prevention and treatment strategies fall into two categories: non-pharmacological and pharmaceutical. Non-pharmacological approaches include seeing a psychologist, using self-validation and insight meditation, engaging in regular physical activity, daily scheduling, and keeping a sleep routine and journal (Menschner & Maul, 2016). Recurrent stress disorder can be prevented or treated with medication. Pharmaceutical approaches involve certain modulators and neurotransmitters that aim at addressing the psychological adversities associated with the children’s exposure to the traumatic events (Katz, 2019). In conclusion, it is evident that both the treatment approaches are crucial for the welfare of the unfortunate children.
This study will use a mixed methodology that includes both the qualitative and quantitative research design principles. The study recruited 100 adults using systematic sampling with children between the ages of 10 and 18. 35% were males, while the remaining 70% were females. The respondents’ age ranged from 35 to 65 years old. The selected individuals understood the aim of the study and took part in the study willingly. The survey provided the participants with 10 questions to determine whether they knew their children’s mental health conditions. The survey included the following questions to help ascertain whether the caregivers in Kern County and other American regions are aware of their children’s exposure to the secondary PTSD:
- Do you have any concern about your child’s mental state? Why?
- Do you understand how the environment exposes your children to secondary PTSD?
- How often do you disagree with your spouse? Do you think this affects your children’s mental health?
- Do you have a history of post-traumatic stress disorder in your family? Have you ever been worried that your children might develop the same undesirable conditions?
- Do you see any signs related to the mental condition in your children? What measures have you taken to ensure that your child does not fall victim to undesirable mental disorders?
- Are your children aware of the complex secondary PTSD?
- Do you think your children are proud of your parenting strategy? Do your approaches safeguard their mental welfare?
- Do you think your parental skills influence how your children handle the traumatic events they face? Can you support your argument?
- Do you think your children are optimistic about achieving their future goals? Are you sure you are motivating them to maintain their focus despite their interaction with traumatized persons?
- How do you feel about the need for regular screening and treatment of mental health conditions to reduce PTSD?
After collecting the data from the respondents, the researchers will use triangulation to analyze the data and provide recommendations to reduce the children’s risk to secondary PTSD. Thus, incorporating qualitative and quantitative research approaches would guarantee that the study efforts to enhance the understanding of secondary PTSD are successful (Shannonhouse et al., 2016). This research study will endeavor to guarantee the professionalism and qualification of the entrusted mental health specialists by ensuring that they have in-depth understanding of the complex secondary PTSD.
Akinsulure‐Smith, A. M., Espinosa, A., Chu, T., & Hallock, R. (2018). Secondary traumatic stress and burnout among refugee resettlement workers: The role of coping and emotional intelligence. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 31(2), 202-212.
Katz, S. (2019). Trauma-informed practice: The future of child welfare. Widener Commonwealth. L. Rev. 28, 51-83.
Kellogg, M. B., Knight, M., Dowling, J. S., & Crawford, S. L. (2018). Secondary traumatic stress in pediatric nurses. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 43, 97-103.
Malarbi, S., Abu-Rayya, H. M., Muscara, F., & Stargatt, R. (2017). Neuropsychological functioning of childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 72, 68-86.
Marsac, L. M., & Ragsdale, B. L. (2020). Tips for recognizing, managing secondary traumatic stress in yourself. AAP News.
Meiser‐Stedman, R., Smith, P., McKinnon, A., Dixon, C., Trickey, D., Ehlers, A.,… & Dalgleish, T. (2017). Cognitive therapy as an early treatment for post‐traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents: A randomized controlled trial addressing preliminary efficacy and mechanisms of action. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(5), 623-633.
Menschner, C., & Maul, A. (2016). Key ingredients for successful trauma-informed care implementation. Trenton: Center for Health Care Strategies, Incorporated.
Secondary trauma effects on teens and young adults. (2020). Sandstone Care.
Secondary traumatic stress. (n.d.a). Administration for Children & Families.
Secondary traumatic stress. (n.d.b). The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Shannonhouse, L., Barden, S., Jones, E., Gonzalez, L., & Murphy, A. (2016). Secondary traumatic stress for trauma researchers: A mixed methods research design. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 38(3), 201-216.
Smoller, J. W. (2016). The genetics of stress-related disorders: PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology, 41(1), 297-319.