Trauma in Early Childhood

There are various types of trauma that can affect children, such as abuse, natural disasters, loss of loved ones, poverty, and maternal depression (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child [NSCDC], 2009). Other types of trauma include illness and accidents (Herr, 2012). Chemicals also cause trauma to the body, including environmental toxins, recreational drugs, and prescription medications (NSCDC 2006). For this assignment, I found three additional articles on trauma, one on trauma from bullying, one on recovery after loss of a loved one, and the third on supporting children with trauma.

The first resource was a study just released on the outcome of bullying after 40 years (Takizawa, Maughan, & Arseneault, 2014). This study was done of all the children from England, Scotland, and Wales that were born the same week in 1958. It is called the 1958 Birth Cohort Study. Almost eight thousand children were included and just over 28% were reported to be bullied between the ages of seven and eleven. The children have been followed for over four decades so far and will be followed until death with various studies being compiled. The study showed that the adults who had been bullied as children had significant mental health differences. They had lower educational levels, their social relationships and well-being were affected, and they were less likely to be successful in relationships. They have lower quality of life, social support, and overall satisfaction with life. They were considered to be less physically, psychologically, and cognitively healthy. They have more thoughts of suicide, anxiety, and depression. These effects were true even when other factors such as IQ and parental socioeconomic status were compared.  The authors stated that “We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing-up” (Takizawa, Maughan, & Arseneault, 2014). I found this extremely interesting, yet sad, that the effects of bullying are life altering. I agree and believe this is a trauma that the schools, teachers, and other professionals need to take seriously.

The second article was “Supporting children with traumatic grief: What educators need to know” (Cohen & Mannarino, 2012). This study discusses Childhood Traumatic Grief (CTG) that occurs after a child experiences someone important to him die, and the child is unable to recover from the experience. CTG can occur even after deaths that are not disaster or violence related. The article states that educators can help by being familiar with the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), including the child being angry or ill, withdrawing from activities, being unable to control their emotions, placing blame on themselves, being unable to concentrate during class, being forgetful, and falling asleep in class. Because these behaviors may appear in children for various reasons, it may be hard for the teacher to be able to distinguish the cause of the symptoms. This is why it is important for teachers to refer children for mental health evaluations when they recognize these symptoms. Another thing suggested is that educators be aware and sensitive of potential triggers and to discuss with the school’s mental health professionals about how to avoid them. Educators also need to remember to keep children’s issues confidential and to keep the lines of communication with the child’s parents open. This article stresses the role that educators can have in helping children with trauma (Cohen & Mannarino, 2012).

The third resource I found was the National Child Traumatic Stress Network ([NCTSN], 2010) concepts for professionals dealing with children who have experienced trauma. Some of these concepts include the fact that traumatic experiences often have layers of complexity, and children can have a wide range of thoughts and actions. Trauma may cause other problems and life changes and can affect other people in the child’s life, and trauma can change a person’s beliefs, values, and attitudes. The impact of trauma can be helped by positive factors, such as loving caregivers, and a supportive school and social environment. The final point made is that working with traumatized children can take its toll so self-care should not be neglected (NCTSN, 2010).

I had not really thought about how many children have been impacted by trauma and how difficult it might be for them to cope. I think that I assumed they were resilient and they always “bounce back.” When I consider all the types of trauma that can be experienced, it would be hard to imagine a child that hasn’t experienced some type. I admit I just never really considered the significance of children’s emotional and social development to be on par with subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics in school. However, since all the domains are interdependent, and the effects can last a lifetime, the social and emotional effects of trauma are just as important as the scholarly. Even with the youngest of children, their social and emotional needs are as critically important as their other needs. There is a big chance that many of the children that we have contact with will be affected by trauma. There can be such a wide variety of responses of children to trauma, we may not even be aware of it, become frustrated with them, and cause them more damage if we are not careful. I can see the need to take firm stands against bullying, to nurture healthy emotions in children, and to always be loving, sensitive, and patient with our students.

 

 

 

 

 

References

Cohen, J., & Mannarino, A. (2012). Supporting children with traumatic grief: What educators need to know. School Psychology International. 32(2). Retrieved from http://spi.sagepub.com/content/32/2/117.short

Centre for Longitudinal Studies. (n.d.). Publications. Retrieved from http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/Default.aspx

Herr, J. (2012). Working with young children 7th ed.). Tinley Park, Ill: Goodheart-Wilcox Publishers.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma Task Force. (2012). The 12 core concepts: Concepts for understanding traumatic stress responses in children and families. Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma. Los Angeles, CA, and Durham, NC: UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2009). Excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the developing brain (Working Paper No. 3). Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/reports_and_working_papers/working_papers/wp3/

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2006). Early exposure to toxic substances damages brain architecture (Working Paper No. 4). Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/reports_and_working_papers/working_papers/wp4/

Takizawa, R., Maughan, B., Arseneault, L. (2014). Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence From a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13101401

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