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The University of Kentucky Center on Trauma and Children (CTAC), located in the College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry is dedicated to the enhancement of the health and well-being of children and their families through research, practice, policy and the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based approaches to address child abuse and trauma. CTAC recognizes the impact of indirect trauma on the child-serving workforce and seeks to address this pervasive occupational hazard.

"It is the strong conviction of this committee that the nation has not capitalized sufficiently on the knowledge that has been gained from nearly half a century of considerable public investment in research on children. In many cases we have barely begun to use our growing research capabilities to help children and families negotiate the changing demands and possibilities of life in the 21st century. "


The Center’s primary mission is to develop and disseminate knowledge, technologies and best practices that will contribute to reducing and ending violence against children and the effects of trauma on children, families and the workforce. The center completes a translational research agenda by: (1) using clinical practice with children and families experiencing trauma to generate research questions regarding assessment and interventions to improve safety and health/mental health; (2) conducting funded research with children, family members, and providers experiencing trauma and related problems; (3) implementing evidence based treatments and practices to clinicians and child serving systems of care; 4) translating and disseminating findings to the broader scientific community (5) consulting, advising, and collaborating with federal and state agencies and policy makers.

Representative Center Activities

  • Clinical research on children who have experienced and witnessed violence and trauma.
  • Epidemiological research on the incidence and prevalence of trauma in children and its consequences to health, mental health, and social functioning across the life cycle.
  • Development of evidence-based behavioral health clinical practices with children, families, and adults whose lives have been affected by trauma and violence.
  • Clinical practice including assessment and treatment of children and family members who have experienced traumatic events.
  • Conducting behavioral health services outcome research among children, families, and adults whose lives have been affected by child maltreatment, trauma exposure (direct and indirect) and its consequences to health, mental health, and social functioning.
  • Developing, testing and promulgating interventions to address secondary traumatic stress disorder.
  • Contributing to the University of Kentucky's mission to develop translational research in behavioral as well as medical healing sciences.
  • Contributing to the teaching mission of the University by offering traineeships, internships, and other clinical placements for students in behavioral health disciplines.
  • Development of studies, reports, consultations, and technical assistance to federal, state, and regional policy makers on child trauma and its consequences to health, behavioral health, and social functioning.
  • Disseminating Center findings and integrated literature through peer-reviewed journals and texts focusing on child violence and its consequences to health, mental health, and social functioning.


Trauma and violence against children is germinal to a wide range of behavioral, psychological, social, and health related problems at every level of society. Children are exposed to traumatic events in many different ways, including maltreatment by caregivers, criminal victimization by strangers, exposure to natural and human-generated disasters, sexual exploitation, and wartime brutalization.

Violent behavior is diverse, and can take the forms of damaging physical, sexual, and emotional aggression, all of which are potentiated by contextual factors such as chronic poverty, neglect, and criminality. Human violence against children is generated from parents and caregivers, peers, neighborhoods, institutions, nation-states, and terrorist groups.

Children who are at the highest risk of severe victimization are simultaneously exposed to many different types of traumatic events, and usually experience these exposures as a chronic condition of growing up. Of particular concern is the growing phenomenon of child victims who themselves become perpetrators of violent acts, such as children who subsequently physically abuse their partners and children, bullied children who perpetrate school shootings, and wartime refugee children who are recruited and trained as brutal child soldiers. Professionals working with this population sometimes suffer from secondary traumatic stress, which can lead to attrition, absenteeism, presenteeism, decrease job satisfaction, and can negatively impact service delivery.

Traumatic events are often influenced and even caused by other significant social problems, such as substance misuse, racism, and poverty. Despite intensive scientific and political attention to these problems, progress in understanding and effectively addressing violence against children, and the effects of this work on professionals has been profoundly limited.

Effective Science and Practice

Research on trauma and children requires systematic approaches and multiple methods for organizing, testing, and contributing to the necessary knowledge base, and this can only be accomplished through the coordinated contributions of multiple academic disciplines and professions. For example, different types of traumatic events require sophisticated contextual and transactional models in order to understand causal processes, moderating and mediating processes, mechanisms of action, and importantly, the immediate and long-term consequences of the phenomenon.

Along with this multidisciplinary requirement, productive research investigations will examine the many types of institutions and systems that impact children, especially those that can significantly ameliorate or worsen children’s outcomes. To make significant contributions to practice, researchers must also be able to translate such knowledge into technologies that can be used by professionals, clinics, community organizations, and governments. However, before dissemination can be successful, these technologies must be refined and tested for safety, feasibility, and effectiveness.

CTAC Approach

The Center employs scientists and clinicians who are actively engaged in a wide range of basic and applied research investigations, program development and evaluation, clinical technology design, implementation, testing, dissemination, and public policy consultation. It is philosophically grounded in its commitment to the "clinical scientist" model that is the basis for translational research and is driven by the commitment that research and clinical programming should result in demonstrably effective outcomes for children. Its location in the flagship University of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its long term national collaborations as members of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network have resulted in important public policy outcomes that have flowed from the Center’s research, clinical, and educational activities.

Values Statements

Turning adversity into opportunity using expertise, optimism and perseverance.

Engaging in deliberate practice, demonstrating our passion, tenacity, and quest for excellence.

Demonstrating innovation using creativity and transdisciplinary perspectives.

Using our voice to educate others and advocate for what we believe in: integrity, excellence, service to others, equity, fairness, and social justice.

Providing courageous leadership to the community on the most effective ways to address child trauma.

Cultivating and maintaining our role as scientist practitioners through intellectual curiosity, self-correction, humility and objectivity.

Improving the translational utility of our work by integrating science and practice to improve professional, child and family outcomes.

Promoting social justice and fairness within systems and structures that effect children and families.