Adverse and Benevolent Childhood Experiences in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD (CPTSD): Implications for Trauma-Focused Therapies

Thanos Karatzias, M Shevlin, Claire Fyvie, Graeme Grandison, Maria Garozi, Emma Latham, Michael Sinclair, Grace Wing Ka Ho, Grainne Mc Anee, Julian D. Ford, Philip Hyland

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33 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: There is very little work on the role of positive or benevolent childhood experiences and how such events might offer protection from the insidious effects of adverse experiences in childhood or later in life. Objectives: We set out to test, using latent variable modelling, whether adverse and benevolent childhood experiences could be best described as a single continuum or two correlated constructs. We also modelled the relationship between adverse and benevolent childhood experiences and ICD-11 PTSD and Complex PTSD (CPTSD) symptoms and explored if these associations were indirect via psychological trauma. Methods: Data were collected from a trauma-exposed sample (N = 275) attending a specialist trauma care centre in the UK. Participants completed measures of childhood adverse and benevolent experiences, traumatic exposure, and PTSD and CPTSD symptoms. Results: Findings suggested that adverse childhood experiences operate only indirectly on PTSD and CPTSD symptoms through lifetime trauma exposure, and with a stronger effect for PTSD. Benevolent childhood experiences directly predicted only CPTSD symptoms. Conclusions: Benevolent and traumatic experiences seem to form unique associations with PTSD and CPTSD symptoms. Future research is needed to explore how benevolent experiences can be integrated within existing psychological interventions to maximise recovery from traumatic stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1793599
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Early online date11 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Dec 2020

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© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • PTSD
  • adverse experiences
  • benevolent experiences
  • • Adverse childhood experiences have a stronger effect on PTSD compared to CPTSD.• Benevolent childhood experiences predict only CPTSD symptoms.• Drawing on material from positive experiences in childhood can enhance CPTSD treatment


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