Neuropsychological functioning of childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis

S. Malarbi, H. M. Abu-Rayya, F. Muscara, R. Stargatt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This study reviewed evidence for cognitive impairments in trauma-exposed children with and without PTSD. Twenty-seven studies were eligible for meta-analysis, totalling 1526 participants, including 412 trauma-exposed children (PTSD unknown), 300 children with PTSD (PTSD+), 323 children without PTSD (PTSD-), and 491 trauma-naive controls. Eligible studies mostly investigated familial-maltreatment trauma (k = 22). Trauma-exposed children (PTSD unknown) performed more poorly overall than controls (d = −0.57). Cognitive deficits were seen in PTSD+ compared to controls, including a large effect size (ES) for general intelligence (d = −0.88), moderate ESs for language/verbal (d = −0.65), visuospatial (d = −0.53), information processing (d = −0.62), learning and memory (d = −0.67), and executive skills (d = −0.52). PTSD+ showed poorer general intelligence (d = −0.28) and visuospatial skills (d = −0.42) compared to PTSD-, whilst PTSD- showed poorer executive function (d = −0.23) and learning and memory (d = −0.61) compared to controls. In conclusion, trauma-exposed children showed cognitive deficits compared to controls, although greatest deficits were associated with PTSD diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-86
Number of pages19
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Children
  • Cognition
  • Maltreatment
  • Neurodevelopment
  • PTSD
  • Physiological stress response
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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