The Prevalence, Patterns and Correlates of Childhood Trauma Exposure in a Nationally Representative Sample of Young People in Northern Ireland

11 May 2022
Enya Redican
Jamie Murphy
Orla McBride
Lisa Bunting & Mark Shevlin
Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma (2022)


Childhood trauma (CT) exposure is common, with many young people affected by multiple co-occurring traumas.


Participants were a representative sample of 11–19-year-olds (n = 1293), who participated in the largest ever representative survey of youth mental health in Northern Ireland (NI) – the NI Youth Wellbeing Prevalence Survey 2020. This study used latent class analysis (LCA) to identify typologies that were most representative of trauma experience and co-occurrence among young people living in NI. Demographic, parental and deprivation variables were then used within a multinomial logistic regression analysis to describe trauma class membership.


Over 35% (n = 478) of participants reported exposure to at least one CT, with over 50% (n = 259) of trauma-exposed young people reporting multiple trauma exposure. LCA results provided support for a three-class model; ‘low-exposure’, ‘moderate-exposure: community-victimization’ and ‘high-exposure: sexual-trauma’. While none of the child, parental or familial covariates differentiated members of the ‘moderate-exposure: community-victimization’ from ‘low-exposure’, those in ‘high-exposure: sexual-trauma’ were over four and a half times more likely to belong to a family in receipt of income benefits and over ten times more likely to have experienced some form of out-of-home care.


This study highlights the presence of three distinct trauma classes in the NI adolescent population. In particular, this study identifies a small minority of young people who have experienced multiple CT’s, including sexually based traumas, with these traumas most likely to have occurred in the context of out-of-home care and familial poverty.

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