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Christopher Franz

1/24/16

HD 300 What are the effects of trauma on children and what can be done about it?

The way a child's brain develops throughout childhood, will pave the way for its future
development. (Lost Animations) During the period of infancy and early childhood, they will learn how to
perceive, process, and perform based off cues from their internal and external environments. These
early experiences, will teach the brain what to expect and how to respond. The extent to which a child is
allowed to experience trauma will affect them, and have negative and lasting repercussions. Children
who experience early trauma may have difficulty thinking clearly, reasoning, or problem solving. It may
also be hard for them to process information, acquire new skills, or self-regulate their emotions. This can
often result in behavioral and physiological problems later in life.

Positive relationships with family, friends, and others, are essential in early development.
Children learn how to recognize healthy and nourishing relationships at home. They must first be able to
develop positive relationships with their parents or caretakers. If this does not occur, a child will
experience an overwhelming sense of stress. At this stage, they depend entirely on adult figures for
survival and protection. Their involvement in a child's life can help shape its impression of the world as
being 'unsafe' or 'safe.' Essentially, they teach the child how to relate to the world around them. Their
influence will help construct a child's sense of self-worth. In most cases, a child who has been abused
may have trouble forming positive attachments with others. If their early relationships are unstable or
unpredictable, the child may not learn to place reliance on others for help. This can lead to loneliness
and isolation later in life. They'll often have trouble expressing themselves, and may become aggressive
or act inappropriate in everyday situations.

A young childs brain is developing rapidly which makes them particularly vulnerable to trauma.
If they grow up worried and under a constant state of threat, its understandable that their stress and
immune systems would suffer and be thrown out of whack. Their sense of safety may be shattered by
unpredictable stressors, loud noises, sudden movements, and other sensations. These distortions can
compound the situation, and have adverse effects on their development. Children, may blame
themselves or their parents for not preventing these situations or being able to change their outcome.
This pain may manifest itself in many forms like re-occurring nightmares, re-enactments of the trauma,
or contribute to the development of new fears.
When a child grows up in a heightened state of emergency, their primary focus will be on
survival. This type of stress will hinder brain development and fry a childs nervous system. This can
prevent their developing systems from reaching their full potential. Brain development continues as a
child transitions into school, although at a slower rate. The formation of neural pathways is dependent
upon the frequency and repetition of both positive and negative experiences (Effects of Complex
Trauma). If these are traumatic, they may prevent the development of other positive connections which
are essential in learning adaptive behaviors. During this stage, non-used neural pathways are eliminated
in order to increase brain efficiency. This process allows for children to master more complex tasks,
control their impulses, and focus of specific things for longer periods of time. Disruptions in this stage of
development can have a dire effect on a childs ability to form social relationships, and succeed in
school. In order to cope many children, take greater risks and engage in impulsive behavior. Left
unchecked, this can lead to criminal behavior and substance abuse issues in adolescence.

The parent/child relationship is the foundation of emotional and mental development. Healthy
attachment can increase cognition, competence, and school readiness. These things are instrumental in
leading children on a pathway toward success. If these elements are not present, it often breeds
negativity, and doubt. When I was growing up, there was a great deal of emotional discord inside my
home. At 4 years old, I had come to depend upon my mother (and father) for food and protection, but
slowly, she began unglued. I had become a convenient source for her to vent her frustrations on. She
began to burst into screaming tirades, and uncontrollable fits whenever I was alone with her. I couldn't
overpower her and, I couldn't argue back. The trust which was established in my earlier stages of
development, eroded within a matter of months. From then on out, I incurred consistent criticism.
Without an outlet or opportunity to assert myself, I was left feeling insecure, inadequate, and lacking in
self-esteem. My mothers fears and aggressions were gradually, imprinted onto me. In order to cope, I
sought salvation in isolation. My failure to navigate this phase of development successfully, impacted
my future ability to resolve crises. With this paper, I hope to examine how childhood trauma impacts
adults and hopefully uncover a successful approach to resolving its residual pain.

Young victims of trauma often have trouble wrapping their heads around the event. They
possess neither the vocabulary, nor introspective awareness to express or manage their emotions.
Children who have experienced complex trauma, often have problems identifying and explaining their
emotions. They tend to develop chronic or recurrent physical ailments such as sensitivity to light or
sounds. Because each trauma is unique to the individual, there may be no cookie cutter approach for
calming a person, once agitated. They may become over-protective and over reactive in situations that
don't call for it. This type of trauma may lead a person to believe that they're under constant attack.
Their environment may be saturated with reminders, causing them to be easily triggered. Their
emotional responses may become unpredictable or explosive. They may behave in ways that appear
unpredictable, extreme, and often times confrontational.

There are many social and economic factors that contribute to the complexity of this problem. A
child who experiences early trauma is more likely to suffer from chronic medical conditions later in life
(Effects of Complex Trauma). In addition, they may engage in risky behaviors that can exacerbate
conditions, like substance abuse issues, cutting, and unhealthy dieting. These kids are also more likely to
experience depression. The way they see themselves and others can reduce confidence in the world
around them. The victim may see himself or herself as broken, and may develop an overall negative
outlook on the world. They may believe that life is meaningless. They will learn to expect the worst from
people and themselves. This can impede their ability to solve problems and shut down any opportunity
for them to seek out a solution and initiate change. Once this defense mechanism is learned, they may
shut down automatically at the first sign of stress, or any time they're reminded of the trauma. The
child may mentally dissociate themselves from their surroundings. This affects a persons ability to be
present in their day-to-day activities. This can affect a childs ability to show up and be present in
classroom or social settings. How then does one pick up the pieces and mend a broken sense of self?

The first piece of literature I reviewed was "Developmental Psychological Trauma, Stress, and
Re-victimization" (Holliday 2014). This material discussed various ways in which stress detrimentally
affects our physical and mental health. It identified various risk factors and socioeconomic stressors, and
offered up methods for intervention. It proposed that traumatic and stressful experiences in childhood,
negatively impact the developmental processes and future functioning. This type of neurological
damage can make a person more susceptible to future re-victimization. Researchers point to multiple
risk factors, which can amplify a person's history of stress. It also questioned the existing empirical
understanding of Childhood PTSD and helped shine a spotlight on areas for further research. The DSM-5
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines traumatic experience as a "direct or
indirect exposure to death, serious injury, and/or sexual violence." The authors proposed adding other
topics to the list of developmental stressors such as; economic hardship, unsafe neighborhood
environments, serious illness, neglect, and parental conflict.
Childhood trauma can immediately alter the development and function of a child's brain and
have long lasting neurological repercussions. Exposure to stress increases both the size of the Amygdala
and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA). These are known to produce a rise in negative emotions such
as fear and anger. It also causes a reduction in volume to the Hippocampal. This is often seen along with
an increase in depressive symptoms later on in life. Another neurological issue discussed was that of
right hemisphere functionality. The research found consistent damage to the Orbitofrontal cortex of
individuals who experienced developmental trauma. A healthy Orbitofrontal cortex helps in emotional
coping and internal regulation. This suggests that once this is adjusted in childhood, a person will have a
higher chance of PTSD, especially if subsequent trauma should occur.

Early trauma is also linked to a number of physical health conditions such as cardiovascular and
lung disease, arthritis, ulcers, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is
also tied to mental health issues like OCD, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and dissociative disorder. The
research also suggests a higher correlation between suicidal ideation, bullying, victimization and other
maladaptive behaviors. Children who experienced developmental trauma are also more predisposed to
socioeconomic hardships, like diminished psychosocial functioning and a lower average income. Often
one condition or symptom exacerbates another, which equates to more severe physical, mental, and
social outcomes. Those who experienced traumatic experiences in childhood were shown to have an
increased rate of poly-victimization later in life.

The research points to early intervention as the key factor for transforming a 'victim' of
developmental trauma into a 'survivor.' They suggest that the reporting isn't as accurate it could be,
since people with psychiatric disorders tend to delay seeking treatment until their symptoms are severe,
if ever seeking treatment at all. The research calls for more targeted studies to explore other effective
treatment options.

The next piece was on the "Conditional and Indirect Effects of Age of First Exposure on PTSD
Symptoms." (Miller-Graff 2016) The article suggests that childhood violence contributes to PTSD in
adulthood. The research didn't simply focus on the direct effects of trauma on children, but rather, what
role the age of a child's first exposure has on future poly-victimization. Their findings suggest that when
stress occurs, it makes victims of trauma more susceptible to other traumas latter in life. As is the case
with 'learned helplessness.' The study went on to explore the linkage between a childs first exposure to
violence, and symptoms of PTSD later in life. Conditions and indirect effects of the traumas were also
examined. They hypothesized that the earlier a child gets exposed to violence, the greater the amount
of exposure to violence they will have across their lifespan. In addition, they believed that the earlier
this exposure occurred, would translate to more crippling conditional effects of the violence. Through
this study, they hoped to predict the severity of indirect effects of posttraumatic stress symptoms in
children. They surveyed 269 adults who had been exposed to trauma as children. The average age of
the test subjects first exposure was 6 yrs. old. Results of the survey showed that the earlier the age of
first exposure, translated to a significantly higher amount of overall exposure to violence, and increased
the likelihood of current PTSD symptoms in their lives. It was also established that the greater the
amount of overall exposure to violence during childhood, the more likely victims would be to re-
experience it later on.

The third piece entitled, " Childhood Trauma and PTSD Symptoms Increase the Risk of Cognitive
Impairment" (Buri 2013) introduced research linking early childhood trauma with a greater risk of
dementia, later in life. This research was prompted by studies, which have associated PTSD in early
childhood with an overall disruption in neuro-cognitive functioning. The study suggests that exposure to
childhood trauma, significantly reduces cognitive function and increases memory loss. The goal of their
research was to explore childhood trauma, and adaptive cognitive functioning. Researchers selected a
group of child slave laborers who were now in their late stages of adulthood. The median age of all four
groups was similar, and there were no significant differences in the subjects depressive symptoms. This
was the first study of its kind to explore a variance between childhood and adult trauma. Participants
were divided up by their prior experiences and at what age their traumas occurred. The subjects were
screened for current signs of depression. Mental functioning was also tested using a range of cognitive
tests. Their findings associated PTSD with emotional and cognitive impairments, independent of any
early childhood trauma. Those who showed positive signs of PTSD generally under performed in
cognitive functioning. Whereas, those with relatively no symptoms of PTSD performed better. Those
who were only exposed to trauma did not show a significant increase for dementia in later stages. This
would tend to show that simply having a history of prior trauma wasnt responsible for the onset of
dementia. Results also indicated that, veterans with PTSD developed dementia ate a rate of 2-1,
compared to those with no signs of PTSD. This suggests that adult age trauma can kick start mental
deterioration and may have more of a direct correlation on PTSD than PTSD related symptoms in
childhood.

The questions regarding depression, also found a stronger relationship with symptoms of PTSD.
Their findings support an association of exposure to trauma as a child and overall developmental
dysfunction. Of those who were diagnosed with dementia, more than half reported experiencing trauma
prior to the onset of illness. They conceded that there were limitations to the study, namely, natural
impairments that occur in patients with lifespan trauma and PTSD, as well as those without a proper
psychiatric diagnosis. The specifics of the subjects life histories might not account for other populations
or subpopulations. But, they found that, in most cases, early intervention would reduce long-term
memory deficiency. Selectivity bias may have also been present in those who presented a reluctance to
participate in the study. Vs. those who were not. Prior studies on participation have shown that people
with elevated PTSD symptoms don't tend to volunteer for such surveys. Further research should be
conducted to examine the severity and frequency of childhood and adulthood traumas.

The next article details how, " Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing
Brain" (Shonkoff 2009). The research indicates that today's young people experience a range of mental
health impairments, previously associated with adults. This includes depression, anxiety disorders, and
anti-social behavior. The paper discusses the ways in which these early experiences adversely alter a
brain's capacity to learn and adapt to stressful situations. Tolerable stress generally occurs over a
limited span of time. In this brief period the brain can recover and possibly undo some of the damage.
The paper defines the concept of toxic stress" and outlines how it takes a toll on children who lack
adult support. The research suggests a need to create better public policies in order to minimize the
disruptive impact on these impressionable young minds. Further, it criticizes current policies which
"doesnt address or even reflect real awareness" of their sweeping effect on young people. The paper
also explains how attentive caregivers can help regulate a childs emotions.

The ways in which children view their caregivers plays an important role in learning how to cope
with mild or moderate stress. When faced with threat, the body responds by increasing its heart rate,
blood pressure, and hormones like Cortisol. High, sustained levels of Cortisol result in damage to the
hippocampus, which is vital to learning, memory retention, and stress regulation. Those who experience
secure relationships will have a more controlled reaction to stress. If a child is around supportive adults
when this occurs, they will usually develop a healthy response system. Their findings showed that when
a child has a responsive parent, it can help suppress the rise of Cortisol. By contrast, whenever the
dynamic was strained, the child tended to show higher levels of hormones. If stress is severe, frequent,
or prolonged, the physiological effects are often stretched out, and fail to return to normal. The
resultant effect is an increase in levels of Cortisol which may alter the circuitry of the brain and render
the child incapable of dealing with stressors as they mature.
Studies indicate that toxic stress can profoundly impact brain structure. When a normal person
is threatened, the body sends signals to the brain, which in turn trigger the production of chemicals, and
stress hormones. This prepares the person to adapt and respond to threat. Extreme exposure to toxic
stress, will adjust the body's systems to respond at lower thresholds. Neural connections may be
overproduced in the regions of the brain related to impulse response and anxiety, while those related to
behavior and planning fail to mature. Once this occurs, the system will activate more frequently, for
longer periods of time, and in situations, which might not otherwise not be stressful. This type of wear
and tear will generally increase the likelihood for mental disorders and other related conditions later in
life.

The quality of early education also plays an important role in our elevated stress levels.
We could benefit from greater research into developing and effectively implementing more inclusive
methods of prevention and reduction of the more common stressors that children face. Young kids who
live in poverty and receive poor-quality childcare often exhibit elevated stress levels. Many of these
factors are compounded by other external factors such as noise, overcrowding, and exposure to
violence. The families who are impacted by poverty, tend to live with greater stress and access to fewer
resources. These challenges are particularly difficult for working families, and people with co-occurring
health problems. The article calls out a lack of support from employers for employees who wanted to
spend time at home with their new bornes. Such circumstances, create situations where supportive
relationships are intermittent or nonexistent. The paper suggests that existing intervention programs
and adult-focused services should include developmental screening assessments for children. This could
essentially close the gap between early intervention services and child welfare programs. It also
suggested that the system could benefit from more informed and universal assessments of these at risk
groups.

In, " Trauma in Early Childhood" (Liberman 2011) there is a call for extensive research on the
effective treatment for traumatized youth. Their research suggests that children from ethnic minorities,
and those living in poverty, are particularly affected. The plasticity of a child's neural system makes it
difficult for researchers to interpret findings with any certainty. Initial assessments incorporate
questionnaires, which have helped uncover unreported instances of trauma. The research calls for the
creation of more accurate, and developmentally sensitive screening procedures, and pushes the public
to enact better policies to protect these maltreated children and promote their resiliency. National
statistics show that during the first 5 years of life, children are disproportionately vulnerable to
traumatic events such as accidental injury. They also have the highest incidence of child maltreatment,
which accounts for 36% of those entering foster care. During these early years, the mortality rate is 75%
for victims of childhood abuse who are younger than 4 years of age. (US Department of Health and
Human Services [USDHHS], 2009). Preschoolers exposed to domestic violence showed significantly more
negative effects, and demonstrated aggressive outbursts towards peers as well as ambivalent
relationships with their caretakers and teachers.

The study found that individuals who came from severely damaged households were 12 times
more likely to develop depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, and engage in suicidal ideation later on.
These sufferers also run greater risks for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. This is often a self-
perpetuating cycle. Traumatic experiences damage a childs impression of their parents ability to
protect them. If a child perceives a threat to its caregiver, it will also equate it as a danger to itself. Once
traumatic expectations become the norm, this leads many to seek out ways of re-experiencing the
trauma. They may manifest it in the form of traumatic play or similar destructive patterns in their
relationships. Traumatized adults, who experience PTSD symptoms like withdrawal and avoidance, may
limit their own responsiveness to 'their' own children. When this occurs, their child's exposure to trauma
will be compounded by the caregivers lack of availability. As the child grows up, it will more than likely
demonstrate an "imitative effect" aggravated by the indirect effects of having to witness the pain of its
caregiver.

A young childs sense of safety is based on the availability and responsiveness of their
attachment figures. It has been established that the quality of the parent-child relationships has a
significant influence on the child's capacity to process and resolve traumatic experiences. Today's
research should be looking toward methods of inclusion that include a broad range of traumatic
stressors from real life situations. Too often they will zero in on single sources of trauma. This should
include more typical situations such as dog bites, severe burns, cuts, falls, car accidents, or death of a
family member.

The problem for most is access to timely and effective mental health care, especially for poor
minorities and their families. Most traumatized children don't visit mental health clinics to deal with
these types of problems. Instead, they meet with pediatric care professional, the welfare system, and
other community-based services. Each of these systems represents a significant entry point for
intervention. Their effectiveness can be enhanced through the adoption of the principles of "PRACTICE,
"which stands for: Parental skills; Relaxation; Affective expression; Coping skills; Trauma narrative; In
vivo desensitization to trauma; and Enhanced safety. By strengthening these resources, in unison, they
hope to bridge the gap between services for traumatized children and their families.

I chose to gather additional data by means of administering a questionnaire. The survey will
combine several existing self-reporting tools, already within the public domain. This will then be made
available to students at Glendale Community College (see attached). Hopefully, the anonymity of these
questionnaires will elicit a greater level of honesty when the participants sit down to disclose their
trauma/s.

The questionnaire was developed to cover 5 types of events; emotional abuse, physical abuse,
sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect. It was designed to assess traumatic exposure in
accordance with the DSM-IV PTSD criteria. The survey will probe for areas of trauma and assess the
severity of these instances. Severity will be ranked from the low of "not traumatic," to a high of
"extremely traumatic." For each event discussed, respondents will be asked to provide the frequency of
these events as well as their age, at the time of first occurrence. Once this has been established,
participants will continue with a test for modern day stressors. Two different test groups will be
established in order to compare and assess the effects of childhood trauma. These results will validate
whether noted increases or decreases were the result of childhood trauma or trauma occurring later in
life, if at all. The participants scores will then be converted into percentiles. Through the attainment of
additional data, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the far reaching effects of trauma and the
various coping mechanisms for it.

Traumatic Events Survey


(Pennebaker, J.W. & Susman, J.R.)

WARNING.

The following questions may be extraordinarily stressful or disturbing.

Each question refers to an event you may have experienced.

Please answer each of the following questions, only if relevant.

If you answer, Yes for any event, please answer the additional questions on the right side of the page
We will utilize a 7-point scale to rate how traumatic these events may have been to you:

(1 = not traumatic at all 4 = somewhat traumatic 7 = extremely traumatic)

Be as honest as you can.

Age event Intensity of initial # of reoccurrence


No. Event: Yes (x) No(x) occurred trauma (1-7)

Have you ever had a life-threatening


illness (leukemia, AIDS, multiple
sclerosis, cancer, a heart attack etc.)?

Have you or a close family member


ever been involved in a serious car
accident?

Have you ever been in a fire, a


tornado, or other man-made or
natural disaster (such as a chemical
spill, hurricane, earthquake, or)?

Has anyone ever attempted to rob


you or actually robbed you (i.e.,
stolen your personal belongings)?

Was there a major upheaval between


your parents (such as divorce or
separation)?

Have you experienced the death of a


close family member or friend?

Have you ever been attacked, or


beaten, by anyone, including friends,
family members, or strangers? (not
sexually)

Have you ever witnessed a situation


in which someone was seriously
injured or killed, or have you ever
witnessed a situation in which you
feared someone was about to be
seriously injured or killed?
Has anyone ever pressured you or
forced you into any unwanted sexual
contact? (contact with someone
elses private parts, rape,
molestation)

Were you ever physically punished or


beaten by a parent, caretaker, or
teacher?

Have you ever served in a war zone,


or have you served in a noncombat
job that exposed you to war-related
casualties?

TSC-40
How often have you experienced each of the following in the last two months?
0 = Never 3 = Often
1 Headaches 0123
2 Insomnia (trouble getting to sleep) 0123
3 Weight loss (without dieting) 0123
4 Stomach problems 0123
5 Sexual problems 0123
6 Feeling isolated from others 0123
7 "Flashbacks" (sudden, vivid, distracting memories) 0123
8 Restless sleep 0123
9 Low sex drive 0123
10 Anxiety attacks 0123
11 Sexual over activity 0123
12 Loneliness 0123
13 Nightmares 0123
14 "Spacing out" (going away in your mind) 0123
15 Sadness 0123
16 Dizziness 0123
17 Not feeling satisfied with your sex life 0123
18 Trouble controlling your temper 0123
19 Waking up early in the morning and can't get back to sleep 0123
20 Uncontrollable crying 0123
21 Fear of men 0123
22 Not feeling rested in the morning 0123
23 Having sex that you didn't enjoy 0123
24 Trouble getting along with others 0123
25 Memory problems 0123
26 Desire to physically hurt yourself 0123
27 Fear of women 0123
28 Waking up in the middle of the night 0123
29 Bad thoughts or feelings during sex 0123
30 Passing out 0123
31 Feeling that things are "unreal 0123
32 Unnecessary or over-frequent washing 0123
33 Feelings of inferiority 0123
34 Feeling tense all the time 0123
35 Being confused about your sexual feelings 0123
36 Desire to physically hurt others 0123
37 Feelings of guilt 0123
38 Feelings that you are not always in your body 0123
39 Having trouble breathing 0123
40 Sexual feelings when you shouldn't have them 0123

Anonymous surveys were used as a method for collecting data on physical, emotional, and
sexual abuse. They included questions about emotional and physical neglect. The questioning was
administered in a non-clinical setting. Surveys and pens were placed in both a counseling office, and a
health center on the Glendale Community College campus. A secure drop box was included, at each
location, which allowed for participants to submit their forms upon completion. The data was used to
asses differences in both males and female responses. Each survey took volunteers an average of 5 - 10
min. to complete. Materials were left at the two locations for a total of 3 weeks. In total, 113 responses
were received. Of those responses, 72 self-identified as female. The female gender accounted for
roughly 63% of all information provided. 41 responses were also received from male participants. The
median age for all test takers was 24. Women average 25 years of age, while men average 24 years of
age. The survey allowed participants to distinguish between current and previous trauma, and gauge the
severity of its affect in their current lives. The information collected will allow greater exploration and
understanding on resultant consequences of psychological, emotional, and physical trauma over the
lifespan.

Out of the 113 responses collected, 89 students (assumption) reported previous instance/s in
both childhood and adulthood trauma. Of those who responded positively, women reported a higher
percentage of childhood abuse than men. 67 woman responded positively. Overall, the women who
experienced early childhood trauma were 75% likely to re-experience it again, later in life. The men who
reported instances of childhood abuse, also reported the trauma with greater intensity. Of the 22 men
who responded positively, the median rating for trauma/s was 6 on the severity scale. This placed their
assessment at halfway between "somewhat traumatic "and "extremely traumatic." The females who
responded positively, placed their severity slightly less, at a median mark of 4, or "somewhat traumatic."
In general, women traumas scores spiked slightly when rating their current trauma/s. On average, they
placed those traumas at an average of 6 on the severity scale.

17 of the 22 males that reported childhood trauma, also reported a re-occurrence of trauma
later in life. These males also reported slightly higher numbers for present day emotional disturbance.
Females who reported early childhood trauma, also reported greater amounts of cognitive disturbance.
These findings also showed that females who experienced childhood abuse were more likely to
perpetrate violence against their current romantic partners. Of those who experienced trauma in
childhood, 51 reported that they acted out aggressively in their current lives. Of the 67 woman who
experienced childhood trauma, 45 reported multiple traumas in that time span. Those who reported
childhood abuse showed a current increase in overall occurrence of depression and anxiety.

The survey asked a number of questions dealing with stress disorders, and sexual abuse.
Questions focused on topics ranging from health, violence, grief and loss, and emotional maturity. The
percentage was higher in woman. These numbers showed a greater correlation between early trauma
and stressors later in life. There was a significant relationship between victimization history and health
issues. Female students were shown to experience an increase in overall levels of anxiety and
depression in adulthood if they were abused younger (72%). Women, who reported victimization more
severely, also reported that it took a greater mental toll. Those who experienced previous childhood
trauma reported a greater correlation to present day negative emotions. Additional questions
ascertained whether previous or current trauma was the cause for over reactive stress response
systems.

Overall, there were higher numbers of students (assumption) who reported trauma in
adulthood. The overall severity was reported at a significantly lower rate. The average score on the
trauma scale was slightly less than 3, or "somewhat traumatic." Of the 103 respondents for adult age
trauma, a greater association was found with those who had current emotional problems (96 out of 103
surveyed). Mental problems were reported less often (42 out of 103 surveyed).
The Survey was used to measure past incidents of victimization. In effort to gauge the impact of
these histories of abuse and neglect, participants were asked to rate the severity of victimization.
Participants were asked a series of 40 questions which rated their current traumas on a scale of 0-4
points. The 40 questions dealt with a variety of topics such blanking out, sleep disturbance, weight
fluctuation, promiscuity, social isolation, depression, eating disorders, and self medication (chemical
dependency, food, etc.). Participants also rated how much disturbance they had experienced in their
current lives. Zero was given the distinction as "never," while a 4 indicated "often." This rating system
was used to find out whether there was a higher correlation between traumas and signs of dissociation,
anxiety, depression, and sexual trauma.

Women perceived that they had difficulty in regulating their own emotions and scored higher
for present day sexual dysfunctions. They averaged a score of 3, "often" for all questions dealing with
sexual trauma. Participants with childhood trauma were found to have higher numbers of problems with
impaired memory and an ability to learn new information. Additionally, they also experienced disturbing
dreams and sleep patterns at a higher rate.

The purpose of the study was to examine the different factors that contribute to conflict
differences between childhood abuse and adulthood abuse related to negative impairments in their
present lives. In terms of current disturbance, it appeared that there weren't significant differences
between those who experienced childhood trauma and those who experienced adult trauma or its
effect on current self-sufficiency, except that current confidence levels improved when comparing adult
age trauma to childhood trauma.

Through my research, I gained a greater understanding of the long-term effects of childhood


trauma. It won't just affect how a person feels in the moment. It will continue to effect and alter all
future development. Experiences like these can be particularly detrimental to children. The minds of
young children are constantly undergoing changes. More often than not, their coping mechanisms
become stunted. Traumatic stress will often overwhelm a childs sense of safety and negatively impact
their survival skills and coping strategies. To make matters worse, this is often compounded by variables
like, pre-existing or co-occurring conditions. These can contribute to the overall severity of the distress,
and will taint a child's impression of their environment. I, therefore, believe that further study of
childhood and adolescence trauma would be beneficial, in order to identify the role early childhood
stressors have on our future well-being.
A sense of safety is critical for normal functioning, and physical and emotional growth.
Traumatic stress will overwhelm a childs sense of safety and lead them to form a skewed set of survival
strategies. Young children are extremely malleable. They haven't fully developed cognitively,
emotionally, or physically. When confronted with trauma at this early age, it will often stunt their ability
to refine and regulate their emotions. A child's social structure can also have an enormous effect on
their ability to cope with trauma. They rely heavily on adult caretakers when learning to deal with
difficult emotions. Support and attention are critical in correcting a child's perspective. This can make all
the difference when switching from the role of victim to that of a survivor. Childhood neglect has
traditionally centered on specific types of trauma, be they physical, sexual, or emotional. These should
also be extended to include natural disasters, auto accidents, or any number of other traumatic events.

Childhood sexual abuse may be the most problematic form of early maltreatment. These types
of traumatic experiences are typically developmentally inappropriate sexual situations without threat of
actual violence. These are usually initiated by someone with whom the child is already familiar with.
Children, who survive traumatic events, generally have a persistent, low-level state of fear. These events
increase the risk for a host of other medical problems down the road. These can include dissociative
disorders, PTSD, and heart disease. The lasting effects of this type of trauma can result in patterns of
conflict, such as dating violence, where one or both partners may act out against the other. In my
research, I found a statistically higher correlation between self-reported traumas and violent
relationships at the college.

In general, college students don't get as upset by questionnaires about sensitive topics, as the
general population. Overall, the numbers of students who reported previous abuse and neglect were
higher than what I had expected. There was also a higher percentage of females who turned in surveys,
then men. This either means that women are more in tune with their feelings, or that they've come to
terms with their previous trauma/s, and are now capable of opening up about their experiences. My
findings didn't differ too much from previously published results. A history of abuse was associated with
current psychological distress. And, men admitted a greater difficulty in controlling impulses and
engaging in riskier behaviors.

Childhood adversity is a major risk factor for the development of a range of psychiatric disorders
in adulthood. Observing and understanding a childs level of trauma, is often best accomplished through
play. This type of therapy is also a commonly used in the treatment of young children who aren't able to
deal with the trauma directly. This also creates a better environment for clinicians to assist the child.
Through the use of games, drawings, and other methods, a therapist can help the child sift through their
traumatic past. Children's emotional coping skills and mental self-awareness dont fully develop until
later in adolescence. That's why early trauma is a major indicator for the development of PTSD. The
focus of treatment would be best directed by incorporating methods of family therapy instead of
medication. This understanding reinforces the idea that specific and personalized treatment is the best
option for these children. An elevated risk for dementia seems to be particularly associated, with trauma
that appears in adulthood. PTSD-related changes may also serve as risk factors for dementia later in life.

If I were to conduct further research, there would be a number of things I would do differently.
For one thing, there was no way to validate that the surveys were in fact taken by students (and not
staff, or family members). I can't exclude the possibility that the data was also affected by, reporting
bias i.e. individual moods of the respondents. Also, the numbers don't account for everyone who may
have glanced at the form and put it down after identifying that it wasn't applicable to them. I believe I
only had a limited number of responses. With more time and resources, I might've been able to explore
a more thorough sampling and identify clearer couplings between specific traumas and the overall
increase or decrease in reflective day-to-day stressors. The physiological and emotional pain associated
with these experiences can be tremendous. I had some reservations about putting the surveys
anywhere on campus other then the counseling office and the nurses center. These forms should be
administered by a health care worker or conducted under the supervision of a doctor. One of the
articles, pointed to a previous study which found that woman often minimize their trauma histories. This
could also account for their lower scores on the severity scale when identifying the severity rating of
their current stressors.

There are multiple responses to mental trauma. These often fluctuate due to nature of trauma
as well as its frequency and intensity. These can be both negative emotions, and positive emotions.
Perhaps the Survey could add some positive questions or characteristics to offset the negative ones.
Violence is increasing while social programs remain underfunded. This is exceptionally true in urban and
rural communities which see rising rates of child abuse and neglect. A child may experience a sense of
pain so overwhelming that they may cause them to exhibit dissociative behaviors. This trauma will play
itself out, over and over again, inside the child's mind. As this person enters adulthood they may
attempt to re-live and re-experience the trauma.

My nephew was recently diagnosed with leukemia and in the span of 24 hrs. underwent an
emergency surgical intervention. The boy's life was changed in an instant. Doctors installed a plastic
port into his chest and administered chemo and other medications. After the first round of chemo his
hair fell out. He also had to endure sudden weight gain and spikes of emotional outburst on account of
the steroids, and medications, etc. I can't imagine how stressful it must be for a kid to go from running
around one minute, without a care in the world, to suddenly, being isolated away from fun and
freedom. He's prohibited from immersion in water, and constantly uses antibacterial wipes to prevent
infection. If it weren't for the stable and supportive system of my sister and brother in law and the
amazing psychiatrists at CHOC, I don't know how he would fare. Their intervention has allowed him to
view his condition as a test of strength, much like the superhero Ironman. He now feels empowered in
his "fight."

I also experienced trauma early in life, and had I sought help, I might've been able to adjust in
healthier ways in early adulthood. In the course of my research, I realized that my personal traumas
growing up, have continued to spill over in my current life. In the last few months I've become
hyperaware of these disruptive patterns of behavior. From choosing relationships with traumatized
partners, to imbalanced dynamics with my employers. This has definitely been a learning experience,
and I have plenty of room to grow. I plan on enlisting the help of outside resources in order to learn
from and move past these previous traumas.

Addressing the impact of trauma requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach. When
children experience trauma, it can have irreversible effects. These findings stress a need for continued
testing on the impact on human behavior. Without a thorough empirical evaluation, we prevent
ourselves from making real progress. I believe that early identification is key to understanding, treating,
and hopefully preventing further human suffering. We should do more work with schools and other
community organizations to ensure that every child has access to support to overcome adversity and
reach their goals. We should provide and publicize, free to low cost resources for children in k-12
schooling and help them develop healthy coping skills and strategies. The sooner this identification can
take place; the sooner a solution-oriented approach can be implemented. This would allow for a child to
move from the victim role and into that of survivor. Pay attention to possible triggers, which may make
them feel threatened. Teach them relaxation skills. Encourage participation in activities, and allow them
to express their emotions through music, art, or exercise. Listen to the child. Children need to feel
physically and psychologically safe. They need consistency and predictability. Help parents and teachers
create a predictable and consistent environments full of positive feedback and reinforcement. We must
strive to form better connections to children and provide access to these resources. If we try to
understand them and their concerns, then we can easily identify the markers required to intervene and
begin healing the damage.

References

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