Child Attributions Mediate Relationships Between Violence Exposure and Trauma Symptomology


  • Kathryn S. Collins University of Maryland School of Social Work
  • Pamela A. Clarkson Freeman University of Maryland School of Social Work
  • George Jay Unick University of Maryland School of Social Work
  • Melissa H. Bellin University of Maryland School of Social Work
  • Polly Reinicker University of Maryland School of Social Work
  • Frederick H. Strieder University of Maryland School of Social Work



Attributions, trauma, violence, PTSD, child therapy


Violence and trauma exposure have been increasingly investigated as contributing to a range of negative outcomes in child physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and psychological functioning, particularly among youth who are racial/ethnic minorities. This study presents findings related to children's attributions of their violence and trauma exposure. Attributions are inferences made about the cause of an event, situation, or action, with internal, stable, and global attributions most likely to lead to negative psychological outcomes. Data were drawn from an on-going clinical intervention study with families at risk for child maltreatment and/or neglect residing in a large metropolitan city on the East Coast. Mediation models provide evidence for a mediated relationship between violence exposure and PTSD through child attribution. Children develop their definitions of violence, formulate reasons why the violence occurs, and react to violence based on interpreting and developing cognitive attributions and schema about their experiences with violence in order to adaptively cope.

Author Biographies

Kathryn S. Collins, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Kathryn S. Collins, MSW, PhD

School of Social Work

Associate Professor

Co-PI, Family Informed Trauma Treatment Center

Pamela A. Clarkson Freeman, University of Maryland School of Social Work

School of Social Work

Research Assistant Professor

George Jay Unick, University of Maryland School of Social Work

George Jay Unick, MSW, PhD

School of Social Work

Associate Professor

Melissa H. Bellin, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Melissa H. Bellin, PhD, LCSW

School of Social Work

Associate Professor

Polly Reinicker, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Polly Reinicker, MSW

Research Assistant

School of Social Work

Frederick H. Strieder, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Frederick H Strieder, MSSA, PhD

Clinical Associate Professor

Director, Family Connections Baltiomre

University of Maryland School of Social Work


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