Screening for post-traumatic stress symptoms in looked after children

Lottie Morris (Manx Cancer Help, Isle of Man, United Kingdom)
Paul Salkovskis (Department of Applied Science and Clinical Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom)
Joanna Adams (Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom)
Andrew Lister (Bristol City Council, Bristol, United Kingdom)
Richard Meiser-Stedman (University of East Anglia, Norwich)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Publication date: 21 December 2015



Many children who are looked after by the state have experienced adverse and traumatic life circumstances prior to being removed from their biological parents. Previous research has highlighted that many of them experience barriers to accessing psychological therapies. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the feasibility of assessing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms using a screening tool, and through this to determine the prevalence of PTSD-like symptoms in looked after children presenting with emotional and/or behavioural problems.


The Child Revised Impact of Events Scale (CRIES-8) was identified as a suitable screening tool for PTSD-like symptoms. This measure was piloted for three months, and the prevalence of PTSD-like symptoms amongst respondents (n=27) was recorded.


Prevalence of PTSD-like symptoms was found to be high 75 per cent amongst respondents. The psychometric properties of the CRIES-8 were similar to those found in a previous study assessing PTSD following a single-incident trauma. Health care professionals reported finding the CRIES-8 to be a clinically useful measure.


Prevalence of PTSD-like symptoms may be high amongst looked after children, and the CRIES-8 appears to have good psychometric properties when used with this population. It is likely that this highly treatable condition is under-detected: thus, recommendations are made for clinical practice and further research.



Morris, L., Salkovskis, P., Adams, J., Lister, A. and Meiser-Stedman, R. (2015), "Screening for post-traumatic stress symptoms in looked after children", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 365-375.

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