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Impact of trauma

“The research is clear that the experience of abuse or neglect leaves a particular traumatic fingerprint on the development of children that cannot be ignored if the child welfare system is to meaningfully improve the life trajectories of maltreated children, not merely keep them safe from harm.” — Bryan Samuels, Commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, 2011.

Child trauma is…

Witnessing or experiencing an event that poses a real or perceived threat to the life or well-being of the child or someone close to the child. The event overwhelms the child’s ability to cope and causes feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror, which may be expressed by disorganized or agitated behavior.

Complex trauma describes both exposure to chronic trauma — usually caused by adults entrusted with the child’s care — and the impact of such exposure on the child. Children who have experienced complex trauma have endured multiple interpersonal traumatic events from a very young age. Complex trauma has profound effects on nearly every aspect of a child’s development and functioning. Children who have experienced complex trauma have endured multiple interpersonal traumatic events from a very young age (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2013).

Adults who experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including child abuse and neglect, are more likely to develop health risk behaviors such as alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempts, smoking, physical inactivity, severe obesity, and high numbers of sexual intercourse partners. Adults with higher numbers of adverse childhood experiences are also more likely to encounter heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease later in life (Felitti et al., 1998). More recent analyses of the ACEs data has suggested that ACEs may be an indicator of a chaotic family environment that results in an increased risk of premature death among family members (Anda et al., 2009).

Additional information at Adverse Child Experiences Study.

pyramid2.pngLong-Term Trauma Impact–ACE Pyramid: CDC

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