Events reported in the media can very traumatic for all of us. And the impact of trauma on children can be particularly devastating to their development. Left untreated, all but the mildest of childhood trauma can have an impact on the child.
Trauma is defined as an “event outside normal human experience”. These events are generally emotionally painful and distressing, and overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, The person’s response involves intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry identifies 2 types of trauma: One-episode Trauma, and Repeated Trauma. One-episode trauma is the result of a specific “event”.
Repeated trauma can include situations of chronic traumatic stress such as repeated neglect, abuse and maltreatment, including physical violence, sexual abuse, repeated verbal abuse and poor early childhood care.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports
• More than 60% of youth age 17 and younger have been exposed to crime, violence and abuse either directly or indirectly.
• Young children exposed to 5 or more significant adversities in the first 3 years of childhood face a 76 percent likelihood of having one or more delays in their cognitive, language, or emotional development.
• As the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, the risk for the following health problems in adulthood increases: depression; alcoholism; drug abuse; suicide attempts; heart and liver diseases; pregnancy problems; high stress; uncontrollable anger; and family, financial, and job problems.
According to the Attachment & Trauma Network Inc, parenting a traumatized child is very challenging and requires a more focused, trained approach than parenting emotionally healthy children. Traumatized children frequently show signs of emotional delay, often acting much younger than their chronological age. Behaviors can range from being withdrawn and non-responsive to aggressive and violent. Responses to typical parenting techniques, such as time out or removal of privileges are often surprising, and parents’ frustration to the child’s opposition can inadvertently cause the behaviors to escalate.
In a 2006 report on Trauma Informed Care, the National Association for State Mental Health Program Directors indicates long term effects of trauma on a child vary, depending upon many factors:
• Characteristics of the child- age, past trauma experiences
• Characteristics of the trauma-type of trauma, severity, chronicity
• Post-trauma factors: early intervention, social support & symptom resolution
Early intervention in childhood psychic trauma is important. Families that offer support, understanding, and a sense of safety as close to the time of the traumatic event as possible can effectively limit the effects of trauma on a child. Munther Barakat, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist who works with children, provides tips for parents on dealing with trauma. It is also a good idea to consult a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional for evaluation and treatment.
If your child, or a child you know has experienced trauma, contact Aurora Psychiatric Hospital at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.
For more information on trauma visit these resources: