Tell me a bit about childhood trauma reactions

It is important to remember that trauma does not have to be a catastrophic event in childhood but can be perceived as such by the child.

In early infancy, children are more likely to go to freeze responses when faced with trauma, with older infants moving to more reactive responses linked to fight - flight, because of their different stages of brain development and mechanisms for coping.

It has also been noticed that children who are exposed to prolonged and severe trauma, develop brain responses which are more dissociative, thought to be due to their inability to escape trauma stimuli.

Once conditions for safety are met, such as an attachment figure, which is nurturing and stable, sufficient nourishment and no on- going threats, then a child's ability to recover from the impact of trauma can increase.

The safety and context the child has to survive in are vital, as is their access to stable care givers, who can help the young child regulate, when their brains are not yet ready to do this independently.

When given the right conditions for recovery and suitable help, some children who have been adversely affected in their development as a result of trauma, can be seen to have a growth spurt as their brains try to catch up. This can be seen in changes in their brain size as well as their reduced trauma reactivity.

Working at the child's pace in therapy and considering the family and readiness context is very important.

This is a fascinating and developing area, which has implications for services to help young children and families in distress.

Created 21st February 2015 by Dr Kaye Blackburn

Related reading:

Morris - Smith, J. Silvestre, M. EMDR for the next generation: Healing children and families. 2013. Academic Publishing International Ltd.