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J Trauma Stress. 2010 Apr;23(2):232-9. doi: 10.1002/jts.20514.

Posttraumatic nightmares and psychopathology in children after road traffic accidents.

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Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Zurich, Culmannstrasse 8, CH 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.


Posttraumatic nightmares are considered as a reexperiencing symptom of the DSM-IV posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. Different types of posttraumatic nightmares, however, may differ in their relation to psychopathology. Thirty-two children were longitudinally assessed 10 days, 2 months, and 6 months after traffic accidents. Occurrence and characteristics of nightmares were examined and their relation to psychopathology assessed. Thirty-four percent of children reported posttraumatic nightmares during at least one assessment. Exact replicative nightmares at baseline assessment predicted PTSD symptoms 2 and 6 months postaccident, but not depressive symptoms. Exact replicative nightmares revealed the strongest cross-sectional association with trauma-specific psychopathology but not with depression. The authors conclude that posttraumatic nightmares--especially exact replicative ones--may be closely related to psychopathological mechanisms of posttraumatic stress in children.

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