Early childhood trauma refers to the trauma that children experience between the ages of 0 and 6. It has long been challenged that infants and young children cannot and do not have the capacity to understand or retain emotions from traumas that they experience. Recent research indicates otherwise. But because infants and young children’s reactions vary somewhat from older children and they are unable to verbalize their reactions and responses to threatening or dangerous experiences it is generally assumed that their age protects them from the impact of these traumatic events. When infants or young children are witnesses to or experience a traumatic event sometimes the adults in their world conclude that because they are so young it is probably better if they don’t talk to the children about it. Unfortunately, these children, like their older counterparts are affected by traumatic events, even though they may not understand what happened or have the capacity to verbalize what they are experiencing surrounding the trauma. Infants as young as 6 months and on into early childhood can be affected by trauma and child centered play therapy are the best method of intervention.
There is a growing body of research that establishes that infants and young children are affected by traumatic events that threaten their safety or the safety of their caregivers. These traumas can be as a result of violence that is intentional including physical or sexual abuse as well as domestic violence. Or the trauma can be as a result of natural disasters, accidents medical condition, the loss of a parent or caregiver or even war.
The Brain and Development:
Throughout our lifetimes our brains are continually develo...
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...ty to give a verbal account of a specific event or incident. Memory is now understood to be multidimensional, multifaceted, and multimodal. Memories are made up of two neurological functioning systems. Procedural memory operates automatically and unconsciously and begins shortly after birth. This function registers stimuli from emotional events that are thought to be stored permanently. The second functioning system of memory is declarative memory, which stores both chronology and context for experienced events. Neurobiological studies are indicative that emotionally powerful experiences early in development are retained as long-term changes in a child’s response to physiological stressors. Emotional correlates of trauma such as shame or terror have been shown to alter neuronal development and the organization of brain structures during the earliest periods of life.
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