Canadian Underwriter

Auto accidents cause stress disorders in children

November 7, 2005   by Canadian Underwriter

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Children involved in motor vehicle crashes may be at risk of suffering acute stress disorder (ASD) symptoms after the crash according to research based on a range of crash data from reports submitted to State Farm Insurance Companies, which indicates that 2% of children and 5% of their parents will likely experience life disrupting multiple traumatic stress symptoms.
“Although it’s less common, traumatic stress can occur in children and their parents even if a child wasn’t injured in the crash,” Flaura Winston, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author on the study, says.
In the study, parents were more likely than children to show signs of emotional distress following an accident. About one in six children with serious injuries (such as a fracture) and about one in four of their parents showed symptoms of acute stress after a crash. When injuries were minor, about one in 20 children and one in six parents were affected.
While traumatic stress symptoms including frequent or upsetting thoughts or memories about the crash; avoidance of reminders of the crash, like refusing to get into a car; jumpiness or constantly feeling in danger; and dissociation or emotional detachment
were seen in children and their parents regardless of injury, if a child received medical care after the crash, both the child and their parents were four times more likely to have serious acute stress symptoms than when no medical attention was required.
“The majority of these children, and their parents, are not diagnosed properly and do not receive the psychological care they need to recover and get back to normal activity,” Winston says.
“We found that the disruption a crash causes in the lives of parents was a predictor that the parents especially could suffer from symptoms of traumatic stress,” Chiara Baxt, Ph.D., a co-author on the study and psychologist on the research team, says.
In some cases a childs symptoms can persist and get in the way of daily functioning, a sign that mental health counseling may be needed in order to recover completely.
The national study of children conducted by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia identifies the magnitude of the problem reporting that because annually more than 1.5 million crashes involve children in the U.S., it is possible that over 25,000 children each year may require help in coping with reactions to a crash.