Objective. In order to understand how traumatized children report traumatic narratives, this study aims to explore the mediating effects of PTSD symptoms on the relationship between child age and narrative characteristics in the allegations of child sexual abuse. Design. The characteristics of traumatic narratives (length of narrative, sensory reliving, negative emotions, sense of death, reflective ability, and contextual embedding) were analyzed in in a group of 58 children who were victims of sexual abuse (34 female; M = 10; SD = 3.5 years; range: 4-17 years), including 29 children (50%) with all the symptoms of PTSD. A set of regression analyses was conducted to examine whether the PTSD symptoms mediate the relationship between age and narrative characteristics. Results. Linguistic elements of trauma narratives were associated with post-traumatic symptomatology: in particular, our results were consistent with a model of PTSD symptoms as a mediator of the relationship between age and some narrative features (sensory impressions, emotional nodes, and cognitive distancing). Conclusion. In the clinical setting, even in children the narrative analysis can be an effective diagnostic tool for understanding the post-traumatic effects. In a legal setting, the effects of the PTSD symptoms on the narrative processes are important to consider in evaluation of child testimony. Implications for future research are discussed.
- child sexual abuse
- content analyses
- post traumatic stress disorder