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Early childhood factors increase risk of post-traumatic stress disorder

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Karestan C Koenen

Correspondence to: Karestan C Koenen, PhD, Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building 7th Floor, Boston, MA 02115, USA;



Do early childhood factors increase the risk for development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event?


All people born during the one-year period between 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand.


Dunedin, New Zealand; 1972–2005.

Risk factors:

Neurodevelopmental factors including prenatal or neonatal problems (as recorded by clinicians during mothers’ pregnancy), IQ and motor skills. Temperament (at ages 3 and 5 years), including temperament factors (including difficult, sluggish and approach); behaviour (at ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 years) assessing children’s antisocial, worried/fearful and hyperactive behaviour. Family environment including socioeconomic status, mother’s internalising symptoms (assessed at child’s age 5, 7 and 9 years), use of harsh discipline (assessed at ages 7 and 9), number of residence changes, number of parent-figure changes, experience of bereavement, divorce or separation.


Exposure to trauma before age 26 years; exposure to trauma between ages 26 and 32 years; PTSD …

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  • Source of funding: UK Medical Research Council and William T Grant Foundation.


  • Competing interests: None.