This research examined factors influencing levels of secondary traumatic stress (STS) in non-offending caregivers (NOCs) of children with histories of sexual or physical abuse. These factors included the nature of the abuse, NOCs’ relationships with the initiators of the abuse, children’s ages and genders, NOCs’ trauma histories, and the elapsed time between children’s disclosures of abuse and their trauma assessments. As a secondary objective, this research examined the interactions between children’s self-reports of their own posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology, NOCs’ estimates of their children’s PTSD symptomatology, and NOCs’ self-reports of their own STS symptomatology.
Participants from a clinical sample (N = 300, children = 150, NOCs = 150; child age M = 9.89, SD = 4.08; NOC age M = 37.87, SD = 9.23) completed structured intake interviews, the PTSD Checklist for the DSM-5 (PCL-5) and the Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS; Child-Report and NOC-Report). Analytic strategies included point-biserial correlation coefficient calculations, linear regression analyses, and Analyses of Covariance (ANCOVAs).
NOCs’ levels of STS were impacted by their relationships with the initiators of the abuse and their own trauma histories. NOCs’ self-reported STS symptomatology mirrored their estimates of their children’s PTSD symptomatology. The discrepancy scores between children’s self-reports of their PTSD symptomatology and NOCs’ estimates of children’s PTSD symptomatology were impacted by children’s ages and genders.
Clinical practitioners should note the importance of examining children’s PTSD symptomatology and NOCs’ STS symptomatology concurrently when making recommendations for trauma-informed evidence-based treatments.