Facts and Figures

Rates of Exposure to Traumatic Events

  • In a nationally representative survey of 12- to 17-year-old youth, 8 percent reported a lifetime prevalence of sexual assault, 17 percent reported physical assault, and 39 percent reported witnessing violence.
    Kilpatrick DG, Saunders BE. (1997). Prevalence and Consequences of Child Victimization: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents. National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina
  • A longitudinal general population study of children and adolescents (9-16 years old) in western North Carolina found that one quarter had experienced at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, 6 percent within the past three months. Costello, E.J., Erkanli, A., Fairbank, J.A., & Angold, A. (2002). The prevalence of potentially traumatic events in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15 (2):99-112.
  • In a continuation of the North Carolina study, more than 68% of children and adolescents had experienced a potentially traumatic event by the age of 16. Full-blown PTSD was rare, occurring in less than one half of one percent of children studied. Other impairments---including school problems, emotional difficulties, and physical problems---occurred in more than 20% of children who had been traumatized. In those who had experienced more than one traumatic event, the rate was nearly 50%. Copeland, W.E., Keeler, G., Angold, A., Costello, E.J. (2007). Traumatic events and posttraumatic stress in childhood. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64 (5): 577-584.
  • Among 536 elementary and middle school children surveyed in an inner city community, 30 percent had witnessed a stabbing and 26 percent had witnessed a shooting.. Bell, C.C. & Jenkins E.J. (1993) Community violence and children on Chicago's Southside, Psychiatry, 56 (1): 46-54.
  • Among middle and junior high school students (n=2248) in an urban school system, 41 percent reported witnessing a stabbing or shooting in the past year. Schwab-Stone, M.E., Ayers, T.S., Kasprow, W. & Voyce, C. (1995) No safe haven: a study of violence exposure in an urban community, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34: 1343-1352.
  • Relatively high rates of exposure in the past year, varying by location and size of the high school, were reported by high school students (n=3735) surveyed in six schools in two states. Among males, 3 to 33 percent reported being shot or shot at, and 6 to 16 percent reported being attacked with a knife. Among females, there were lower reported rates of victimization except for sexual abuse and assault.
    Singer, M.I., Anglin, T.M., Song, L.Y. & Lunghofer L. (1995) Adolescents' exposure to violence and associated symptoms of psychological trauma, Journal of the American Medical Association, 273: 477-482.


Prevalence of PTSD

  • In a community sample of older adolescents, 14.5 percent of those who had experienced a serious trauma developed PTSD.
    Giaconia, R., Reinherz, H., Silverman, A., Bilge, P., Frost, A. & Cohen, E. (1995) Traumas and posttraumatic stress disorder in a community population of older adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 34: 1369-1380.
  • A recent review of research on children exposed to specific traumas found wide ranges in rates of PTSD:
    • 20 percent to 63 percent in survivors of child maltreatment
    • 12 percent to 53 percent in the medically ill
    • 5 percent to 95 percent in disaster survivors

Gabbay, V., Oatis, M.D,, Silva, R.R. & Hirsch, G. (2004). Epidemiological aspects of PTSD in children and adolescents. In Raul R. Silva (Ed.), Posttraumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents: Handbook. (1-17). New York: Norton.


The Epidemiology of Trauma and Trauma Related Disorders in Children and Youth (2008) (PDF)

John Fairbank, co-director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, is the author of The Epidemiology of Trauma and Trauma Related Disorders in Children, the winter 2008 edition of Research Quarterly, a publication from the National Center for PTSD. In the issue, he reviews general population studies, disaster research, child maltreatment studies, and special population studies that report the prevalence of PTSD in children, adolescents, and young adults.


PILOTS Database Searches on Statistics

The PILOTS [Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress] database is a good source for articles on child trauma-related statistics. The following search strategies can be used in the Command Search Box in the Search Tools tab of the database:

  • Child sexual abuse
    DE=(rape and epidemiology) and de=(children or adolescents)
  • Exposure to community violence
    DE=(epidemiology and "community violence") and (de=children or adolescents)
  • Exposure to family violence
  • DE=("family violence" and witnesses and epidemiology)
  • PTSD in children and adolescents
    de=(epidemiology and ptsd) and (de=children or adolescents)


Links to Other Sources of Statistics