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Children who witness arrests in danger of mental instability

Young children who see someone close to them in handcuffs are in danger of mental health issues, according to a recent study.

A University of Illinois at Chicago study found that children in the nation's child welfare system who witnessed the arrest of a household member may have been psychologically traumatized by the event.

Susan D. Phillips, assistant professor of social work and the study's lead author, found that children who saw the arrest of a household member had elevated symptoms of posttraumatic stress or PTS -- a psychological response to witnessing a traumatic or life-threatening event.

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The psychological response was found even after accounting for other factors that might explain the condition, such as maltreatment or child abuse, the study found.

Phillips suggests mental health professionals should be regularly screening to see if children have witnessed an arrest of someone they lived with and get them the help they need.

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Data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being was used to examine the experiences of children ages 8 and up who were suspected victims of child abuse and neglect.

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