Category: Child / Adolescent - Trauma / Maltreatment
Abstract Body: Extreme childhood adversity that includes interpersonal violence or victimization in primary relationships (e.g., sexual abuse; witnessing domestic violence) and disruptions in attachment bonding with primary caregivers (e.g. foster care) is associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as developmental impairments in a range of self-regulation capacities (Ford et al., 2013). An emerging construct that bears resemblance to several of these sequelae of complex trauma is a newly proposed attention deficit profile called Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT), characterized behaviorally by apparent mental confusion, daydreaming and low energy (Becker et al., 2014). The SCT profile has not yet been clearly differentiated from adaptations that follow traumatic events, which sometimes manifest behaviorally as detachment from the environment. The current study examined the association between exposure to interpersonal and non-interpersonal trauma in childhood and SCT symptoms, as well as the relationships between SCT and symptoms of other diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder and ADHD. Parents (N=160) completed a measure of SCT, a traumatic events screening, and the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (KSADS), reporting on their children (ages 8 to 17; M= 11.76, SD = 2.73; 50.3% female; 51.2% White, 11.3% Hispanic, 3.1% Asian, 22.5% Black, and 7.5% bi-racial). Children (N=82) also participated in the study, and completed a traumatic events screening and the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (KSADS), reporting on themselves. SCT was positively and significantly associated with interpersonal victimization (r = .34, p < .001) but was not significantly associated with non-interpersonal trauma (r = .11, p = .168). A hierarchical multiple regression found that interpersonal trauma was a significant predictor of SCT (b = .22, t = 2.93, β = .26, p < .001) with a pr of .23, indicating a medium-effect size, accounting for 19.9% of the variance in SCT. An additional multiple regression analyses identified the types of symptoms that were most strongly related to SCT. These eight variables accounted for 16.2% of the variance in SCT. Although this is significant (p < .001), it suggests that a large part of the variance of SCT is unique variance that are not accounted for by symptoms of these other diagnoses. These results suggest that SCT is associated with childhood victimization and potentially suggest that SCT is non-redundant with the other diagnoses. SCT is an internalizing profile, which makes it a critical area of investigation, as it may be difficult to identify behaviorally.
Regina Musicaro– doctoral student, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts
Julian Ford– University of Connecticut
Joseph Spinazzola– Justice Resource Institute; Suffolk University
Michael Suvak– Associate Professor of Psychology, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts
Anne Sposato– Justice Resource Institute; Suffolk University
Susan Andersen– McLean Hospital; Harvard Medical School