Traumatic Childhood Experiences and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Lance Brendan Young, Christine Timko, R. Dario Pulido, Kimberly A. Tyler, Cynthia Beaumont, Kathleen M. Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) dramatically increases the risk of both substance use disorder (SUD) and suicide in veterans. Military-related trauma, however, may not be the only or most significant trauma experienced by veterans. Trauma exposure is high among those joining the military. This study sought to identify the prevalence of five types of childhood trauma (emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and emotional and physical neglect) and three adult trauma symptom clusters (intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and hyperarousal) among veterans seeking SUD treatment and to clarify the associations between types of trauma and specific symptom clusters. Veterans at three Veterans Affairs (VA) SUD treatment facilities in the Midwest completed surveys at treatment entry (n1 = 195) and at 6-month follow-up (n2 = 138). Measures included the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire-Short Form and the PTSD Checklist, either a military or a civilian version, depending on whether the most traumatic event occurred in or out of the military. The prevalence of childhood trauma was high, ranging from 40.5% experiencing physical abuse down to 22.8% experiencing sexual abuse. At baseline, 60.2% of the military trauma group met criteria for PTSD, compared with 33.9% of the civilian trauma group, a significant difference, χ2(1, N = 195) = 14.46, p <.01. Childhood emotional and physical abuse were moderately associated with intrusion and hyperarousal in the military trauma group, but in the civilian trauma group a broader spectrum of childhood traumas were associated with a broader array of symptom clusters, including avoidance. At follow-up, symptoms improved and were less associated with childhood trauma. These findings illuminate the persistence of effects of childhood trauma and recommend more targeted PTSD treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)NP12665-NP12685
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • adverse childhood experiences
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • substance use disorder
  • trauma
  • veteran

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Traumatic Childhood Experiences and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans in Substance Use Disorder Treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this