The Prevalence, Patterns and Correlates of Childhood Trauma Exposure in a Nationally Representative Sample of Young People in Northern Ireland

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Purpose: Childhood trauma (CT) exposure is common, with many young people affected by multiple co-occurring traumas.
Methods: Participants were a representative sample of 11–19-year-olds (n=1293), who participated in the largest ever representative survey of youth mental health in Northern Ireland (NI) – the NI Youth Wellbeing Prevalence Survey 2020. This study used latent class analysis (LCA) to identify typologies that were most representative of trauma experience and co-occurrence among young people living in NI. Demographic, parental and deprivation variables were then used within a multinomial logistic regression analysis to describe trauma class membership.
Results: Over 35% (n=478) of participants reported exposure to at least one CT, with over 50% (n=259) of trauma-exposed young people reporting multiple trauma exposure. LCA results provided support for a three-class model; ‘low-exposure’, ‘moderate-exposure: community-victimization’ and ‘high-exposure: sexual-trauma’. While none of the child, parental or familial covariates differentiated members of the ‘moderate-exposure: community-victimization’ from ‘low-exposure’, those in ‘high-exposure: sexual-trauma’ were over four and a half times more likely to belong to a family in receipt of income benefits and over ten times more likely to have experienced some form of out-of-home care.
Conclusions: This study highlights the presence of three distinct trauma classes in the NI adolescent population. In particular, this study identifies a small minority of young people who have experienced multiple CT’s, including sexually based traumas, with these traumas most likely to have occurred in the context of out-of-home care and familial poverty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-976
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Trauma
Issue number4
Early online date7 May 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Department for the Economy PhD studentship. The Department for the Economy had no role in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in writing the report and in the decision to submit the article for publication. We would also like to acknowledge the Social Care Directorate (Children’s Service and Think Family NI), Health and Social Care Board who commissioned and funded the Northern Ireland Youth Wellbeing Prevalence Survey, and who made this study possible.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Adolescents
  • Childhood trauma
  • Latent class analysis
  • Northern Ireland
  • Original Article


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