The cognitive model posits that negative appraisals play an important role in posttraumatic stress disorder, in children as well as in adults. This study examined correlates of negative appraisals in relation to trauma exposure and their relationship to posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in 414 Sri Lankan adolescents, aged 12 to 16, living in areas impacted in varying degrees by the 2004 tsunami. In 2008, participants completed measures of negative appraisals, lifetime traumatic events, posttraumatic stress symptoms, internalizing symptoms, ongoing adversity, and social support. The majority (70 %) of the participants reported multiple traumatic events; 25 % met DSM-IV criteria for full or partial PTSD. Adolescents who had experienced more severe events, abusive events, greater cumulative trauma, or greater current adversity reported more negative appraisals. In regression analyses controlling for known risk factors such as female gender, cumulative trauma, ongoing adversity, and low social support, negative appraisals were the best predictor of PTSS, explaining 22 % of the variance. This relationship appeared specific to PTSS, as negative appraisals did not predict internalizing symptoms. Findings confirm the link between negative cognitions concerning traumatic events and persistent PTSS in adolescents, but longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether appraisals contribute to symptom maintenance over time.