ⓘ Early childhood trauma refers to various types of adversity and traumatic events experienced during the early years of a persons life. This is deemed the most c ..


ⓘ Early childhood trauma

Early childhood trauma refers to various types of adversity and traumatic events experienced during the early years of a persons life. This is deemed the most critical developmental period in human life by psychologists. A critical period refers to a sensitive time during the early years of childhood in which children may be more vulnerable to be affected by environmental stimulation. These traumatic events can include serious sickness, natural disasters, family violence, sudden separation from a family member, being the victim of abuse, or suffering the loss of a loved one. Traumatic experiences in early childhood can result in severe consequences throughout adulthood, for instance developing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety. Negative childhood experiences can have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. However, not all children who are exposed to negative stimuli in early childhood will be affected severely in later life; some children come out unscathed after being faced with traumatic events, which is known as resilience. Many factors can account for the invulnerability displayed by certain children in response to adverse social conditions: gender, vulnerability, social support systems, and innate character traits. Much of the research in this area has referred to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study study.


1. Emotional Functioning

Research shows that even witnessing traumatic events can impact the physical development of a child’s brain - potentially leading to lifelong impairments in emotional functioning. In particular, they could diminish the structure and functioning of brain systems. Some children may forget the traumatic event all together, thought it can re-surface years later with severe symptoms or not surface at all. Moreover, youth that grow up in emotionally dysfunctional environments typically dont have the opportunity to appropriately feel and express emotions, which can cause further distress accompanied by severe symptoms that persist into adulthood. This can further cause a person difficulty in creating or maintaining relationships, or further frustration and anxiety. Similarly, internalizing problems such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and somatic complaints are related to other forms of emotional dysregulation that can lead to difficulty with attention and cognitive control. Additionally, whether children experienced neglectful behavior or abuse, they tend to show poor understanding of emotions, especially those whom were subject to high levels of anger or hostility by their caregivers.

Researchers have also presented findings on the development of facial recognition of emotion in physically abused and neglected toddlers. Their results outline that physically abused children have difficulty recognizing sadness and disgust, while neglected children have more difficulty discriminating differences between emotional expressions. However, both physically abused and neglected children tend to rate expressions of anger and sadness similarly to emotionally neutral expressions. Additionally, they describe how an appropriate level of exposure to emotional expressiveness supports good learning of emotion in children but increased exposure to anger and hostility or poor communication can lead to less than ideal learning of emotions.

Moreover, results from recent neurological research suggests that childhood psychological trauma can influence the same physiological response systems as physical trauma can. Neurologically, the initiation of emotion occurs as a product of the interaction between bottom-up and top-down processes. Emotional regulation involves numerous brain regions and involves a broadly dispersed functional network with bidirectional links among many emotion-relevant regions in the brain. For example, research has identified the amygdala, ventral striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray as key areas of activation during administration of emotional tasks.

In a typically developing child, maturation of neural and neuroendocrine systems is related to decreased emotional lability and increased self-control. However, these processes also depend on the maturation of parasympathetic regulation in early childhood and developments in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical HPA axis, which are shaped by positive early experiences and caregiver receptiveness. Therefore, home environments that do not foster healthy maturation in brain systems may interfere with the development of language as a means to comprehend and communicate emotions effectively, and other cognitive processes regulated by the attentional system.


2. Depression

Depression can be displayed in persons that have experienced acute or chronic trauma, especially in their childhood. With the surfacing of relevant studies, evidence proposes that childhood trauma is a large risk factor in developing depressive disorders that can persist into adulthood. Also, these findings present that clinically depressed individuals reported being exposed to adversity/trauma during their early years of childhood. Types of adversity that were listed by clinically depressed individuals involved sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, neglect, separation from a parent, or mental illness in a parent. Specifically, the strongest correlation between the types of adversity and adulthood depression is sexual abuse and neglect, particularly in females. Therefore, it is crucial in realizing how large of a factor environment surrounding a child plays in the development of depression.

As mentioned before, adverse childhood experiences ACE is one of the largest studies that aspires to explore the relationship between childhood maltreatment and long term health outcomes. This study presented "findings showing that two-thirds of the participants reported at least one child adversity while one out of 5 participants reported having more than 3 child adversities, which was followed by a range of long term health consequences such as depression and major psychiatric disorders".


3. Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is differentiated from other psychiatric disorders by its need for a triggering stressor. A few of the more common sources that can provoke PTSD are community violence war, natural disasters, or serious illnesses. The depth and severity of the trauma exposed to children were relative to high levels of psychopathology, especially anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as further impairments. Also, new information was obtained in light of evidence, which suggests that a caretaker being sent to prison had the same effect of depth of PTSD on children as rape did. Additionally, a sudden separation from a loved one for any reason or receiving traumatic news about a loved one can also provoke severe PTSD in children. Furthermore, specific reports from a research study indicated that adults who were diagnosed with PTSD had a history of exposure to countless trauma as children, had a history of anxiety, and were known to come from adverse social conditions. For this disorder, the prevalence rate is higher in girls than boys. Yet, reports of previous research showed that the risk of developing PTSD after being exposed to trauma in childhood was less than those who were exposed during adulthood.


4. Resilience

Psychological resilience in particular is referred to bouncing back after having been exposed to serious stressors. For example, during the Holocaust where majority of the population was killed, the child survivors were pronounced by definition, resilient. After being subject to traumatic experiences countless children can become resilient and even display more strength than before, known as invulnerability. Reason being, there are factors to consider when contemplating on how certain children become resilient when faced with adverse social conditions. These factors include innate childhood qualities, specific character traits, social support systems, capability to make the best of what theyre given, and ultimately the will to survive. Research on children’s emotional experience and competence suggests that children who have emotionally charged experiences tend to have a heightened awareness of emotional cues; thus, allowing for more effective processing of information. However, the capacity to become resilient is dependent on a variety of factors, one of which includes gender. Evidence from a prior study suggests that girls compared to boys utilize support systems and other resilience factors more often than boys, helping them cope more efficiently on a daily basis. Despite this evidence, some studies have showed that adults who were believed to be resilient after facing trauma in their childhood, also reported high levels of anxiety and depression; those deemed resilient can fall apart at any time if a certain vulnerability is triggered.

  • Childhood trauma is referred to in academic literature as adverse childhood experiences ACEs Children may go through a range of experiences that classify
  • study has demonstrated an association of adverse childhood experiences ACEs aka childhood trauma with health and social problems across the lifespan
  • Psychological trauma is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress
  • Early childhood is a critical period in a child s life that includes ages from conception to five years old. Psychological stress is an inevitable part
  • Betrayal trauma is defined as a trauma perpetrated by someone with whom the victim is close to and reliant upon for support and survival. The concept
  • depression and anxiety as well as psychosis, whether the trauma is experienced in childhood or adulthood. It conceptualises victims as having understandable
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences Study Early childhood trauma Stress in early childhood Kazeem, O. T. 2015 A Validation of the Adverse Childhood Experiences
  • Transgenerational trauma or Intergenerational Trauma is a psychological theory which suggests that trauma can be transferred in between generations. After
  • understood to constitute childhood, due to early work responsibilities, frequent bodily and emotional trauma and separations from family. The book covers
  • who has worked on gender identity disorder in children GIDC and early childhood trauma Coates earned her BA from Sarah Lawrence College, her MA from Vassar
  • Trauma Team is a video game developed and published by Atlus for the Wii in 2010. It is the fifth entry and current final entry in the Trauma Center series