Year of grant:

Research Area:

Project type:

Project title:
Traumatization and Psychological Distress among Children and Adolescents

Grant number:

Project manager:
Tóra Petersen

Psykiatriski depilin & Århus Universitet

Project period:

Grant from the FRC in DKK:
463.905 kr.

Project description:
Though studies of children and adolescents indicate that this age group is in risk for suffering from posttraumatic stress, research on this age group is still sparse. The objectives of this project are: (1) To investigate the prevalence of traumatic events and negative life events, and whether negative life events also can entail PTSD. (2) Whether the associations between psychosocial factors are gender dependent. And (3) what characterises adolescents having tried to commit suicide (4) to conduct cross-cultural analysis of the abovementioned associations. (5) To validate measures of traumatization for this age group. Method: the first four objectives will be studied through data, based on a questionnaire including a list of traumatic events and negative life events, and standardized questionnaires measuring traumatization and various psycho-social variables. Population: Eighth-graders from four European countries and a consecutive population of 6-18 year-olds in a clinical sample.


The overriding aim of the present PhD thesis was to contribute knowledge to the field of posttraumatic stress and psychological distress in children and adolescents; a field that is characterised by a great lack of epidemiological knowledge. The PhD thesis is comprised of six empirical papers taking different perspectives on the topic. All six papers address epidemiology in trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress, and psychological and social variables that have shown to influence the development of posttraumatic stress and psychological distress. All papers are mainly based on data collected in a total population of Faroese eighth graders (N=687), and the six papers use distinct data from a questionnaire, which is explained in the distinct papers.

Main results:
Twenty per cent of the adolescents had life time posttraumatic stress disorder, and additionally 14 % had life time posttraumatic stress at a subclinical level. Female gender, living with a single parent, exposure to multiple trauma, and exposure to a potentially traumatic event were variables associated to an increased risk of posttraumatic stress in Faroese adolescents. A gender variation in relative risk of following posttraumatic stress after various trauma types was identified. Significant cross cultural variation in various measures amongs Faroese, Danish, Icelandic, and Lithuanian adolescents was identified. The variation was in: number of trauma exposure, type of trauma exposed to, prevalence of posttraumatic stress and the gender ratio in posttraumatic stress. The Faroese adolescents were at a higher risk of posttraumatic stress compared to adolescents from the neighbouring countries, and were highly exposed to severe childhood trauma. Cross cultural differences were also found in the distribution of attachment patterns among Faroese, Danish and Icelandic adolescents with PTSD. Psychological and social factors together with four trauma types events were found to account for 56 % of the variance in PTSD the Faroese adolescents. The contributing variables were: female gender, fearful attachment, lack of social support, rational and emotional coping, and exposure to serious accidents, past suicide attempts, physical abuse, and bullying In the Faroese population an a high risk group of approximately 5 % was identified. This population was characterized by high exposure to severe traumatic events and suffered from posttraumatic stress, negative affectivity and somatic symptoms. Another 14 %, mostly adolescent males, also suffered from posttraumatic stress, negative affectivity and somatic symptoms, and had high exposure to violent traumas. Finally possible psycho-social risk factors in 10 % of the Faroese adolescent population, who reported life time suicide attempt were identified, and showed gender differences. This study shows that assessment of trauma exposure and following posttraumatic stress in adolescents is an important subject for further research. Moreover it underlines the importance that clinicians and decision makers emphasise trauma, prevention and treatment.

Project status:

Project output:
Thesis: Petersen, T. Traumatization in adolescents: A broad perspective. In press.

2014: Petersen, T. & Elklit, A. Risk factors for suicide attempt in a Faroese total population of eighth graders. Scandinavian Journal of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology. In press.

2013: Petersen, T. & Elklit, A. Attachment styles and PTSD in adolescents in three Nordic Countries. Open Journal of Epidemiology, 3, 62-69

2013: Petersen, T., Armour, C., & Elklit, A. Modeling Patterns of Negative Life Experiences and Mental Health in Faroese Adolescents. Scandinavian Journal of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology, Vol. 1 (2), pp. 63-71.

2010: Petersen, T,; Elklit, A. & Gytz, J. Victimization and PTSD in a Faroese Youth Total Population Sample. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51 (1): 56-62.

2008: Elklit, A.& Petersen,T. Exposure to Traumatic Events Among Adolescents in Four Nations. Torture, 18, 2-11.

Oral presentations:

2012: Petersen, T. The mediating effect of coping on the association between gender and posttraumatic stress. Oral presentation at the Third Bi-annual International Conference European Society for Trauma and Dissociation, Berlin, Germany, March 29th- 31st. Book of abstracts, p. 135.

2008: Petersen, T. Gender, Attachment Styles, Traumatic Events, Life Events, and PTSD in all Faroese Eighth-Grade Students. Oral presentation at the First Conference European Society for Trauma and Dissociation., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 17th-19th. Book of Abstracts, p. 80.

2007: Elklit, A., Petersen,T. & Gytz, J. Victimization and PTSD in a Faroese Youth Total Population Sample. Paper presented at the 10th European Conference on Traumatic Stress, 5-9 June 2007, Opatija, Croatia. Book of Abstracts, s. 101.

Not peer reviewed:

2009. Elklit, A., Molin, K., & Petersen, T. Seest: Tiden læger ikke alle sår. (En ny Seest-undersøgelse dokumenterer, at krisereaktioner i højere grad er kroniske. Myndighederne undervurderer behovet for psykologisk bistand ved katastrofer). Psykolog Nyt, 8.

2008: Petersen, T. & Elklit, A. Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for Children and Adolescents. Umseting úr enskum til danskt.

2008: Elklit, A., Petersen, T. & Molin, K. De psykosociale konsekvenser af fyrværkerikatastrofen i Seest. Del 3 – Beboerne 15 måneder efter.Psykologisk Skriftserie, 29 (1), 1-67.

2007: Petersen, T. & Elklit, A. Når noget forfærdeligt sker / Tá okkurt ræðuligt hendir. Kunningartilfar til skúlabørn um psykotraumatologiskar reaktiónir og hvat kann gerast fyri at hjálpa.

2007: Elklit, A. & Petersen, T. En analyse af demografiske, sociale og psykologiske forskelle mellem de Seestborgere, som oplevede forsikringsselskabet som belastende versus hjælpsomt. Rapport til Forsikring og Pension. Århus: Psykologisk Institut, Aarhus Universitet.


2012: Ráðstevna um Kynsligan ágang: 36. sept. 2012. ”Tølini tala. Um kynsligan ágang í Føroyum”

2011: Harðskapur í nærsambondum, Ráðstevna um heildarætlan fyri Føroyar.

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