Experience of persistent trauma in childhood can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. Children develop their personality and ways of dealing with the world mainly through relationships with their parents and caregivers. If they are not safe and not taken care of, they need to develop coping strategies to survive what has happened to them. Sometimes they may blame themselves for what happened to them and feel a deep sense of fear and shame. They may be wary of others and find it very difficult to trust others in relationships through childhood and as adults. Often children who have experienced abuse have a low sense of self-worth or self-belief. Due to their difficult experiences, they might find it hard to manage their emotions and can feel very overwhelmed or might find it hard to feel anything at all. As children’s’ brains are developing, it can be hard for children to remember or put into words what happened to them, and they might act this out through challenging behaviour or withdrawing from others at home, at school and in their communities. They might find it hard to learn and concentrate, and to make and keep friends.
Infants and childrens can experience different types of stress and need support with this.
– Positive stress
is moderate, brief, and generally a normal part of life (entering a new child care setting). Learning to adjust to this type of stress is an essential component of healthy development
– Tolerable Stress
includes events that have the potential to alter the developing brain negatively, but which occur infrequently and give the brain time to recover (death of a loved one)
– Toxic stress
includes strong, frequent, and prolonged activation of the body’s stress response system (chronic neglect, abuse, chronic lack of repair).
As adults, people who experienced childhood abuse and trauma may struggle in relationships with others, finding it difficult to trust others and always expecting something bad to happen. Often people aren’t aware of this consciously. It may be hard for adults with childhood trauma to be able to understand their own or other’s thoughts and feelings (Van der Kolk, 2015). Adults who experienced abuse as children might also struggle to manage their feelings, and when they have their own children, this might be particularly hard for them.