As we look into the effects of trauma on infants, we first must consider to what extent infants have memory. Many people assume that trauma cannot affect children who are too young to remember what happened. Perhaps, they even think that these infants are lucky because they experienced trauma so young that they grow up as if nothing had ever happened. However, studies show that we may need to think beyond our intuition.
Gaensbauer asks the questions: When exposed to a traumatic event, what does the infant understand about what is happening? Does he or she form an internal representation of the experience? Is the experience retained in memory? If so, for how long and in what forms (2002)? Gaensbauer gives several examples of how trauma memory is retained. In one case, an infant as young as three days old was having trouble taking to his mother’s breast. A very aggressive...
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...negatively affect a trauma survivor’s ability to maintain relationships with family members (Schwerdtfeger & Goff, 2007). The research in this area suggests that traumatized adults may be emotionally or functionally (or both) unavailable for their infant, increasing the likelihood of enhanced symptomatology within the child. Parents with a trauma history may “pass on” their trauma symptoms or reactions to their children, either through the children’s direct exposure to the parents’ symptoms or through the parents’ potentially traumatizing (e.g., abusive) behavior. Additionally, depression, anxiety, psychosomatic problems, aggression, guilt, and related issues may be common in the children of trauma survivors. These findings suggest the complexity of understanding the effects of trauma that may impact family members across generations (Schwerdtfeger & Goff, 2007).
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