Constellations of Interpersonal Trauma and Symptoms in Child Welfare: Implications for a Developmental Trauma Framework

Cassandra L. Kisiel, Tracy Fehrenbach, Elizabeth Torgersen, Brad Stolbach, Gary McClelland, Gene Griffin, Kristine Burkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Patterns of trauma exposure and symptoms were examined in a sample of 16,212 children in Illinois child welfare. Data were collected on trauma histories, child and caregiver needs and strengths, and analyzed in light of the proposed Developmental Trauma Disorder diagnostic criteria. Youth exposed to both interpersonal violence and attachment-based ("non-violent") traumas within the caregiving system had significantly higher levels of affective/physiological, attentional/behavioral, and self/relational dysregulation in addition to posttraumatic stress symptoms compared to youth with either type of trauma alone or in relation to other trauma experiences. These complexly traumatized children exhibited higher levels of functional impairment and were more likely to have placement disruptions and psychiatric hospitalizations. Findings suggest a developmental trauma framework can more adequately capture the spectrum of needs of these multiply traumatized youth than existing diagnostic formulations. Utilizing this framework for assessment, treatment planning, and intervention can lead to more targeted and effective services for these children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Caregiver
  • Child
  • Complex trauma
  • Developmental trauma disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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