Identifying trauma-related symptoms is important for treatment planning at child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and routine trauma screening may be a first step to ensure appropriate treatment.
Studies with community samples have found modest agreement between children’s and caregivers´ report of exposure to potentially traumatizing events (PTEs). However, studies from clinical populations are scarce and the evidence base for screening recommendations is insufficient.
The current study explores child and caregiver agreement on the child’s exposure to PTEs and its relationship with the child’s post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and functional impairment. The sample consist of 6653 caregiver-child dyads referred to Norwegian CAMHS between 2012–2017. The children were 6 to 18 years of age (M = 12.03, SD = 3.14) and 47% were boys and 45% were girls (8% missing).
Children reported significantly more exposure to accidents or illness, community violence, and sexual abuse than their caregiver, but there were no differences for reports of domestic violence. Kappa results were fair to moderate, with the highest agreement rate for reports of sexual abuse, followed by domestic violence, community violence, and lowest agreement for accidents or illnesses. There were higher agreement rates among caregivers and older children, and caregivers and girls. In general, the child had higher PTSS and functional impairment scores when child exposure to PTEs were reported by both the caregiver and the child. Both children and caregivers should be included in trauma screening procedures at CAMHS to collect a more complete picture of the child’s experiences and treatment needs.