Associations Among Teacher Identification of Symptomology in the Classroom and Children's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptomology: Potential Influences of Caregiver Childhood Maltreatment
Child abuse is a substantial public health problem in the United States, with approximately one in three children experiencing abuse before the age of 18. Studies examining the cycle of violence suggest that when caregivers are abused, their children’s first 12 years of life may bear increased risk for similar abuse. Teachers are well-equipped to notice symptoms of child abuse and to intervene during this critical developmental period. Thus, teacher identification of traumatic symptomology associated with abuse may serve an important preventive purpose and may mitigate risk for children who experience forms of abuse early in life. The present study examined caregiver childhood abuse as a moderator of the association among teacher identification of student PTSD symptomology and actual PTSD symptomology for children at risk for abuse. The current study utilized a sample of children (n = 872) from the consortium for Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect. Teachers were more likely to identify externalizing behaviors compared to caregivers. One interaction was statistically significant, indicating that caregiver childhood abuse moderated the association between teacher identification of child internalizing behaviors and PTSD symptomology severity at age 12. Further simple slope analyses indicated that teachers were more likely to identify child PTSD symptomology if the student’s caregiver experienced childhood maltreatment. Additionally, findings suggested that caregiver childhood maltreatment is not associated with teacher identification of child internalizing and externalizing behaviors and PTSD clinical significance. Further research and teacher training may be needed to better identify child symptomology in the classroom.