Childhood trauma, PTSD, and the cautious forensic expert

Lance Amols, Spencer Eth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For centuries, medicine and psychiatry mirrored society’s equivocations regarding childhood trauma. Those conflicts have mostly resolved, with widespread agreement that children are commonly exposed to traumatic events that may lead to PTSD and other mental conditions. The psychiatric and legal arguments should no longer be about the reality of childhood trauma in general; instead, experts should focus on the methodology of translating a particular child’s narrative truth of maltreatment into a historical account, so that the expert can be qualified to offer criminal or civil court testimony after examining the child. In this commentary, we explore the daunting forensic challenges of eliciting admissible evidence to confirm or dispute the allegations and of offering scientifically credible opinions about whether any present and future harm related to the trauma and PTSD was directly caused by the incident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-174
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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