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When a Child's Parent or
Caregiver has PTSD

'Can the effects of PTSD also affect the children
in the household'?

Have you ever wondered, 'Can the effects of PTSD also affect the children in the household'?

The answer is yes.

Social and behavior problems

Some research shows that children of Veterans with PTSD are more likely to have problems with behaviors and school and problems getting along with others. Their parents see them as more sad, anxious, aggressive, and hyper than children of Veterans who do not have PTSD. Some research has also found that PTSD in a parent is related to violence in the home and to children acting violent. But it is important to note that most Veterans have homes without violence.

Emotional problems and secondary traumatization

Some children of combat Veterans with PTSD are more sad and anxious than children of non-combat Veterans who do not have PTSD. Although not common, children may start to have symptoms like the ones the parent has. For example, a child may have nightmares about the parent's trauma.

Children may have PTSD symptoms related to watching their parent's symptoms. For example, a child might have trouble paying attention at school because she is thinking about her parent's problems. The impact of a parent's PTSD symptoms on a child is sometimes called "secondary traumatization."

Since violence occurs in some homes in which a parent has PTSD, the children may also develop their own PTSD symptoms related to the violence. A child's PTSD symptoms can get worse if there is not a parent who can help the child feel better.

To learn more, visit the National Center on PTSD.