Childhood Trauma: Causes, Effects, and Preventive Measures

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Child trauma is a dangerous, scary or life-threatening event that happens to a child of the age 0 to 18 years. In most cases, these events often lead to emotional pain and distress that manifests by inducing lasting physical and mental effects. Learning how to understand, cope and process difficulties, including tragedies, is part of everyday life during a child’s growth. However, this adaptation may be compromised when the child is subjected to an experience or repeated events that induce an overwhelming sense of fear and loss, denying them safety. Most traumatic events make children feel like they have no control over their lives. As the feeling continues to get intense, the child’s social, physical, emotional and mental development is impaired. One of the studied consequences of trauma among children is traumatic stress, which results after the child has been exposed to more traumas, making them develop reactions such as anxiety that affect their daily activities. Therefore, it is salient to understand the causative factors and the effects of childhood trauma while also highlighting applicable preventive measures.

Causes of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma has been linked to traumatic events that elicit strong negative emotions in reaction to this experience. One of the causes of childhood trauma includes child neglect which entails the act of a caregiver that deprives the child of their essential needs. For instance, some parents allow children to view violence or even severe abuse between the parents themselves or even insults that emanate from other people. The second cause of childhood trauma is bullying, which entails the aggressive and unwanted behavior manifested by school children and involves unequal power distribution in a learning environment. Most bullying cases are repetitive where the children involved in bullying are likely to experience it more than once. The common types of bullying include verbal, social and physical bullying. Verbal bullying can be in the form of name-calling while social bullying can be manifested by embarrassing the child in public. Lastly, physical bullying can be in the form of hitting or tripping a child (Blumenfeld et al., 2010). Generally, child negligence depriving children of their essential needs and bullying that may cause physical harm are two main causes of childhood trauma.

Childhood trauma depends on the type of lives that children live while at home where there are those children subjected to family violence while others are homeless. When a child continuously witnesses violence between their parents, these children are considered to develop anxiety or become fearful. Domestic violence can be reflected by physical abuse where the child’s father or mother may be forcibly restrained against their will. Domestic violence can also take the shape of sexual abuse where either parents or guardians use force to coerce their partner to engage in sexual activities they never desired or exploit victims who cannot make informed sexual consent. When a child witnesses these occurrences, they develop a fear of when will the next violent act happen in that household. It has been found that children who are raised in homes with constant violence are likely to have violent families. Along with violence, homelessness may stress the child’s life as they try to thin where to live or get food from next (Blumenfeld et al., 2010). Unequivocally, domestic violence in lac of homes can induce stress on the child, depriving their proper development.

Effects of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma affects future relationships and attachments of children with new people. When the relationship between the caregiver and the child is strong, the child learns how to trust others, regulate their emotional intelligence, and even interact with the world. However, in cases of child trauma, a child vests the idea that relationships are unpredictable and unstable and that it is difficult to rely on other people for help. When the caregiver exploits the child either physically or sexually, the child perceives that everyone around them are terrible beings, making them conservative to what they have in mind. Along with relationships, childhood traumas impact attachments where children exposed to negligence often become vulnerable to stress (Blumenfeld et al., 2010). These children find it challenging to control and express their emotions which may cause them to overreact in situations related to their friends or partners. Lack of emotional control among such children makes it difficult to maintain romantic relationships, friendships or even new acquaintances.

Childhood trauma inhibits the body’s typical developmental cycle, causing children to host various health conditions. Usually, the body develops from infancy through adolescents, which is a period that is highly dependent on the type of environment the child is growing up in. When the child is exposed to constant stress like bullying in school, the child’s immune system and the stress response mechanism are caused to develop abnormally. For instance, the child may start experiencing rapid heart rates or breathing when subjected to trivial scenarios such as surprises. Along with driving abnormal development of the immune system, a traumatic environment may impair the evolution of the brain and the nervous system. A stressful environment often denies the brain the chance of developing to its full potential as it lacks a mental simulation that would otherwise induce full brain expansion. Consequently, this results in mental retardation, which causes mental health problems for the child (Blumenfeld et al., 2010). Generally, childhood trauma inhibits the development of the immune system and the brain, causing the child to develop weakness in their growth.

Preventing Childhood Trauma

There are various ways to manage childhood trauma and help children thrive in the future. Firstly, parents, guardians and other caregivers need to educate themselves on the common triggers and traumatic reactions in the child’s life. This education will help them exclude such events for their kids, preventing the trauma from progressing into stress. Secondly, caregivers need to seek support from mental health professionals to help the child cope with traumatic events and aid in the child’s complete recovery process. Thirdly, caregivers should encourage self-esteem where they can expose the child to positive experiences, which will boost the child’s esteem and, at the same time, promote proper development. Lastly, parents need to ensure safety for their children at home and at school, which will help them offset the possible causations of stress such as bullying from peers (Blumenfeld et al., 2010). Principally, caregiver education, mental health support, encouraging self-esteem and assuring safety will reduce cases of depression as a result of childhood trauma.

Inconclusively, childhood trauma entails life-threatening events that result in pain and distress to a child. Childhood trauma has been linked to causes such as negligence, bullying, domestic violence and homelessness of the child. This trauma has been identified to induce adverse effects on the development of the body systems such as nervous and immune systems, predisposing the child to conditions such as mental illnesses. Nevertheless, childhood trauma can be prevented by educating caregivers, seeing mental support for the child, encouraging the child to develop self-esteem and ensuring safety at home and in school.


Blumenfeld, S., Groves, B.M., Rice, K.F., & Weinreb, M. (2010). Children and trauma: A curriculum for mental health clinicians. Chicago: The Domestic Violence & Mental Health Policy Initiative.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Childhood Trauma: Causes, Effects, and Preventive Measures'. 11 March.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Childhood Trauma: Causes, Effects, and Preventive Measures." March 11, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Childhood Trauma: Causes, Effects, and Preventive Measures." March 11, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Childhood Trauma: Causes, Effects, and Preventive Measures." March 11, 2023.