It is a trauma that occurs due to experiences occurring at ages 0-6. As these young children or infants lack verbalization and communication their experiences are different from older children Researches have suggested that young children feel traumatized by the vents which include threats to the safety of them or their loved ones. Their symptoms are well documented by these researchers. These traumatic experiences can vary in intensity or type. It can be of anything ranging from domestic violence to natural disasters or even a war. Painful medical procedures or losing a parent or a caregiver can also be traumatic for young children
Traumatic experiences leave a great mind on the child. Both the mind and body are disturbed as a result of such events have a profound sensory impact on young children. Their way of viewing safety is changed by such events. Traumatic experiences often involve noises, aggressive behaviors, violent movements and unpredictable event which seems frightening. Such events can alert the sensory patterns of young children and may cause nightmares, new fears, and reliving the event. The issue here is that these young children are not fully able to distinguish between the real and ideal world. They lack the judgment of cause and effect and think that their feelings related t such events are real. The patterns of perceiving and interpreting traumatic events differ with age. Young children often blame themselves to be unable to protect others.
Research has suggested traumatic events can not only change the cognition or thinking patterns among young children but also can alter the neurology of brains as well. Reduced brain size has been associated with early childhood trauma. It involves specifying the brain cortex which performs our complex functions as involved in memory formation, attention, thinking, language production, and consciousness. Such alterations in neurology can result in low IQ and poor emotional regulation. Overall, such children may be more fearful in the future and overall vulnerable to such events.
Young children may also have difficulty forming attachments and relationships in the future. As their primary hope lies in the safety of their caregivers, they may be strongly affected by traumas involving their parents or caregivers. They are both physically and emotionally dependent on their parents so if trauma has an impact on them their relationship with them may be disturbed. They may feel alone and unsupported which can trigger the feeling of fear and stress in them. They may also doubt their parents’ love for them or may feel that their parents don’t understand them. Such children may also have difficulty in communicating their feelings with others.
Just like older children, young children also experience both behavioral and physiological symptoms associated with trauma. The difference is that they can’t express or communicate like older children. Such children, therefore, have difficulty in regulating their emotions and behaviors. Early childhood trauma is associated with feelings of helplessness or being overwhelmed. They may develop trust issues where they are more fearful of new situations and are easily frightened. It may also be difficult to make them feel calm. Such children may also be more aggressive and impulsive towards situations. Their developmental patterns may also be disturbed resulting in abnormal sleep patterns along with poor functioning. Following are the common symptoms found among children which are associated with early childhood trauma:
Traumatic Symptoms of children aged 0-2:
- Exhibit low verbal skills
- Poor memory formation and reticulation
- Aggressive behaviors (crying too much)
- Digestive problems with having low appetite
Traumatic Symptoms of children aged 3-6:
- Difficulty in paying attention or focusing
- Show learning deficits
- Poor skills
- Aggressive behaviors
- Acting out
- Have trust issues
- Low self-confidence
- Digestive issues
Although early childhood trauma can be devastating towards the child but not every child is affected that much. Families possess certain competencies which can act as protective factors for them. Along with the fact of having good resources and strong mental health, certain traits can also help the child to deal with traumatic events. Such traits help overcome the traumatic event. Resilience is the ability to get out of misery without much damage. Children and families possessing resilience can often face the traumatic event without being affected by it much. Resilience can protect them from long-term harm. Studies suggest that along with resilience, children having other protective factors like the support of parents, positive caring, can act as a shield against adverse experiences. Parents’ love and support under such situations can be a consistent resource for their children. It encourages them to talk about their feelings and experiences. Providing reassurance to children to make them feel safe is also important and acts as a protective factor.
Early Childhood Trauma Resources
- The Impact of Interpersonal Trauma in Early Childhood and Ways We Can All Help: https://www.nctsn.org/resources/the-impact-of-interpersonal-trauma-in-early-childhood-and-ways-we-can-all-help
- Childhood Trauma and the Brain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYBUY1kZpf8
- How the brain adapts to adversity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEmPsmjN7d0