Racial Differences in Children’s Trauma Symptoms Following Complex Trauma Exposure

Faculty Sponsor

Rachel Wamser-Nanney


Arts and Sciences



ORCID Identifier(s)

0000-0001-8014-4642; 0000-0003-0215-5121

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Fall 5-3-2018


Complex trauma exposure has been defined as multiple or chronic interpersonal trauma that begins early in life, which leads to widespread dysregulation. Previous studies have reported that minorities may be at greater risk for trauma exposure and symptoms; yet, racial differences have not been investigated in the context of complex trauma. The aim of the present study was to determine if there are racial disparities in children’s trauma exposure and outcomes among 167 child survivors of complex trauma (3-18 years, M = 9.90, SD = 3.92; 61.67% female; 62.2% Black). Black children endorsed a greater number of trauma types and were more likely to have experienced community violence and have been placed in child protective custody than Whites. Caregivers of White children endorsed higher levels of select internalizing symptoms and social concerns whereas Black children reported higher levels of sexual concerns than Whites. White children who experience complex trauma may be at higher risk for some trauma-related difficulties. Alternatively, caregivers of White children may perceive them to have, or be more willing to acknowledge, higher levels of symptoms than Black children. Future work is needed to further investigate the role of race in disclosure of trauma exposure and related symptoms.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Elise Trombetta and Claudia Campbell are undergraduates at the University of Missouri St. Louis. Much of their undergraduate research has been done in a trauma center on their campus that focuses primarily on community violence, abuse, and other early life adversities. Both students plan on seeking their PhD's in Clinical Psychology.

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