Variables That Influence Traumatic Reactions in Child Maltreatment

After a traumatic event, common with abuse, maltreatment, or neglect, the psychological outcomes can leave lasting damage. Although the experience and the individual make each response unique, there are some determinants to how some victims react to traumatic events, especially in cases of child maltreatment. Below, and outlined in our Mental Health Issues of Child Maltreatment textbook, are some variables that affect the reactions to these events.

It is important to note the different reactions are determined by a multitude of intermingling variables, such as interrelationships of the child, their environment, their trauma exposure, and the predisposition of the child. Reaction to traumatic events often have overlapping variables.

Level of child development and trauma

The child’s stage of development can give insight to their reaction to trauma. The impact of particular stressors, the importance of unique aspects of the child’s experience, and the manifestation of symptoms are influenced by developmental age among other variables. It is important to note the stage of development does not equate to chronological age.

Age and the cumulative effects of trauma

The age of the child during the occurrence of trauma and the number of times the trauma occurred are important to the nature of ongoing reactions. Studies suggest that early childhood trauma is more likely to have a more severe impact which can affect a child’s path towards success and among his/her peers. A similar experience in adolescence or adulthood, when self-regulation and other skills have already been developed, would be less likely to have severe, long-term results compared to that in childhood.

Impact of trauma on the brain

Evidence suggests that maltreatment in early development can cause enduring brain dysfunction, like cognitive difficulties, loss of regulation of mood and affect, and loss of social attachment. Child maltreatment in early childhood is also linked to abnormal internalized and externalized behavior.

Our Mental Health Issues textbook offers more in-depth information on the developmental impact of abuse, neglect, and maltreatment in child. More importantly, our textbook is designed to aid professionals who help children heal from their trauma. For more information on what we do, visit our website or subscribe to our newsletter.


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