Prior adversities predict posttraumatic stress reactions in adolescents following the Oslo Terror events 2011

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Background: Former studies suggest that prior exposure to adverse experiences such as violence or sexual abuse increases vulnerability to posttraumatic stress reactions in victims of subsequent trauma. However, little is known about how such a history affects responses to terror in the general adolescent population. Objective: To explore the role of prior exposure to adverse experiences as risk factors for posttraumatic stress reactions to the Oslo Terror events. Method: We used data from 10,220 high school students in a large cross-sectional survey of adolescents in Norway that took place seven months after the Oslo Terror events. Prior exposure assessed was: direct exposure to violence, witnessing of violence, and unwanted sexual acts. We explored how these prior adversities interact with well-established risk factors such as proximity to the events, perceived life threat during the terror events, and gender. Results: All types of prior exposure as well as the other risk factors were associated with terror-related posttraumatic stress reactions. The effects of prior adversities were, although small, independent of adolescents' proximity to the terror events. Among prior adversities, only the effect of direct exposure to violence was moderated by perceived life threat. Exposure to prior adversities increased the risk of posttraumatic stress reactions equally for both genders, but proximity to the terror events and perceived life threat increased the risk more in females. Conclusions: Terror events can have a more destabilizing impact on victims of prior adversities, independent of their level of exposure. The findings may be relevant to mental health workers and others providing posttrauma health care. © 2014 DagØ. Nordanger et al.




Nordanger, D., Breivik, K., Haugland, B. S., Lehmann, S., Mæhle, M., Braarud, H. C., & Hysing, M. (2014). Prior adversities predict posttraumatic stress reactions in adolescents following the Oslo Terror events 2011. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5(SUPPL).

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