An investigation of parental responses to child experiences of trauma
: (Alternative Format Thesis)

  • Victoria Williamson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Childhood trauma exposure is associated with a range of adverse outcomes,including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Parents are often children’s mainsource of support following a trauma. However, little is known about the experiences of parents in supporting their child post-trauma and research into the relationship between parenting and childhood PTSD has yielded mixed findings. The five papers in this thesis aimed to investigate the role of parental responses in child adjustment following child trauma exposure. Paper 1 presents a meta-analytic review of the association between parenting and child PTSD symptoms. A small, yet highly significant relationship between parenting and child PTSD was identified, but given the limited number of studies available and the potential influence of methodological factors, only tentative conclusions are made. Nonetheless, the finding that parenting is associated with child PTSD informed the following four papers in this thesis. Paper 2 qualitatively examined parents’ experiences of supporting their children following single-incident trauma and presentation at an Emergency Department. As no child in Paper 2 accessed psychological treatment post-trauma, Paper 3 presents an investigation of parents’ views of providing care for children with clinically significant levels of post-traumatic distress. The trauma-specific aspects of parental support identified in Papers 2 and 3 highlight the need for a validated measure of post-trauma parental responses. Paper 4 describes the development and preliminary evaluation of a measure of parental appraisals and behaviours following trauma exposure. Finally, the majority of studies that examined parenting behaviours in Paper 1 were conducted in a Western, low-risk context; therefore, the aim of Paper 5 was to examine the views of parents of trauma exposed children in the peri-urban settlement of Khayelitsha, South Africa. Overall, the results indicate that parental responses are associated with child PTSD symptoms and highlight the strategies used by parents to promote child recovery.
Date of Award11 Jan 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorSarah Halligan (Supervisor), Cathy Creswell (Supervisor) & Ian Butler (Supervisor)


  • PTSD
  • trauma
  • child
  • parent responses

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