The association between secondary trauma and mental health outcomes among adolescents: Findings from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey.


This study explored whether potential relationships existed between secondary traumatic stress exposure and various mental and behavioral health outcomes among a nationally representative sample of New Zealand high school students. Secondary data collected as part of the Youth’12 National Youth and Well-Being Survey conducted by the Adolescent Health Research Group of the University of Auckland were used for all analyses (Clark et al., 2013). Univariate, bivariate, and ordinary least squares (OLS) regression estimates were used to examine the relationships between exposure to traumatic events of close friends/family members and mental and behavioral health. Approximately 28% of students reported learning of a serious/traumatic event affecting close family or friends. There were significant correlations (p < .01) between the predictor variable (trauma experienced by close friends/family members) and emotional well-being, depression, emotional problems, conduct problems, and hyperactivity. OLS regression model estimates supported bivariate output. Findings suggest that there is a relationship between exposure to trauma from close family/friends and mental and behavioral outcomes among sampled youth. Therapists working with youth who are experiencing emotional or behavioral symptoms should investigate the role secondary trauma might have in these symptoms.