Childhood trauma is a type of psychological trauma that was caused during childhood. It is often caused by child abuse, traumatic events in the family, natural disasters, and other events that bring psychological damage to the mind of the child. This type of trauma can put a person at risk of developing social and mental disorders that can reduce the person’s quality of life and lead to other negative outcomes. This literature review is aimed at examining the possible disorders that can develop due to childhood trauma to further understand the issue. The review was conducted with the use of the online library JSTOR. The following paper will showcase the five themes that were revealed during the review process to better understand the associations between childhood trauma and various disorders.
Effect of Trauma on the Development of Mental Disorders
The most commonly encountered theme during the search for literature on this topic concerned mental and psychological disorders that are caused either by trauma or abuse. The discovered topics were mixed, but all of them concerned the development of mental and psychological issues among people who experienced trauma as children. The first was written by Natasha Blanchet-Cohen and Rebeccah Nelems, and it was focused on the evaluation of a child-centered psychological help program for the victims of Hurricane Katrina (2013). The article was published in 2013, but recently it became relevant once more. Hurricanes have become a relatively common occurrence, and unfortunately, there are still not enough support systems to help people completely recover from such disasters. The paper argues that child-focused psychosocial programs are essential in post-disaster contexts due to the vulnerability of children’s psyche and the danger of disorder development. The article provides a clear evaluation of the examined program and showcases its value in the improvement of social well-being, knowledge, skills, and the emotional wellness of the participants (Blanchet-Cohen and Nelems 2013). It is relevant both to this theme and the theme of resilience that will be discussed further.
The second article was written by Markus Shafer, Lindsay Wilkinson, and Kenneth Ferraro in 2013. It examines the effect of childhood trauma, abuse, and general misfortune on the educational attainment and health of the adults that experienced it. The article is based on a study about the increased quality of health among college-educated adults. However, the authors noted that selection bias could lead to an inaccurate understanding of these statistics. By using a national survey of middle-aged American adults, the authors confirmed, that the difference in a person’s upbringing can have dramatic effects on their future health and education. People who have experienced trauma and abuse are less likely to achieve a college education or the health benefits that the original study suggested (Schafer, Wilkinson, and Ferraro 2013). This article is moderately relevant as it shows that the mental and social disorders that can develop in people who have experienced trauma are likely to prevent them from receiving effective education, which is a pattern that was also present in the investigation.
The next article continues the theme of trauma’s effect on education. It was prepared by Michelle Porche, Lisa Fortuna, Julia Lin, and Margarita Alegria in 2011. The focus of the article was on the correlation between school dropout and childhood trauma, as well as psychiatric disorders. The group of authors examined the data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys which provided a large sample of information on a diverse group of people aged 21-29. The authors found that the dropout prevalence rate was 16% overall, and in the majority of cases, childhood trauma and psychiatric diagnosis were the causes behind the dropout (Porche et al. 2011). The article has shown to be highly relevant to the topic of the review as it makes clear the association of childhood trauma with mental and social disorders.
Daniel Klein wrote the next article with a focus on chronic depression. The article differentiates between chronic and non-chronic depression based on a few factors. The author states that people who live with chronic depression could be suffering from childhood maltreatment. The author carefully examines the available evidence on the subject and concludes by proposing that besides factors like the history of child abuse, comorbidity, impairment, suicidality, and other previously known factors, there may be not yet identified ones, such as the age of onset (Klein 2010). Although the article is not entirely focused on the issue of trauma, evidence of its effect on the development of mental disorders (specifically chronic depression) makes it relevant to the review topic.
Another article on the long-term physiological consequences of childhood trauma was written by Isaac Youcha in 2013. It was specifically focused on the possible negative outcomes that can be encountered when a group therapist uses certain methods. The article examines various methods and styles of leadership that are available to a group therapist and how some of them can reactivate the trauma that the patients went through in their childhood (Youcha 2013). The article examines an important point about childhood trauma. Even when a person is not constantly affected by the trauma they experienced, it may be reactivated through actions associated with it.
The theme of childhood trauma’s effect on education can also be seen in an article from Behavioral Disorders journal. The low reading skills of kindergarten and first-grade children were examined to find the risk factors that could lead to the development of future behavioral disorders. The authors found that the majority of risk factors were related to child abuse of various kinds and could later develop into further mental disorders (Nelson et al. 2008). The article utilizes an unusual approach but remains relevant to the topic. However, the presentation of data makes it appear less credible.
Lastly, the issue of nonsuicidal self-injury was examined by Matthew Nock in 2009. He states that the issue is prevalent among all demographics, but the reasons behind this behavior are not well researched. Childhood trauma is examined as one of the risk factors that may not only cause but also exacerbate the issue (Nock 2009). The evidence in the article is presented well, and it is relevant to the theme of mental disorders.
Issues Caused by Parental Incarceration
One of the originally unexpected themes that were revealed through the review of the literature was the trauma caused to children by parental incarceration. The first article that was found examined the potential early grade retention after parent incarceration. The article examines a study on the correlation between children’s grade retention and paternal incarceration. The authors find that the children whose father is incarcerated are more likely to experience early grade retention. They point out that the teachers in such cases should provide additional support to such students (Turney and Haskins 2014). The article presented a new consequence of childhood trauma, and therefore it is highly relevant.
The second paper on the subject examines the issue from a more holistic perspective. It presents an analysis of adolescents who experienced parent incarceration during the 2008 Great Recession. These traumatic events put the majority of the participants into a state of poverty which greatly affected them. A portion of the examined group could not continue their education and was involved in criminal activities. However, the group that achieved higher educational status has avoided crime and led a stable life (Hagan and Foster 2015). The effect of childhood trauma on education is once again seen in this article, showcasing the various ways in which education can be interrupted.
The effects of paternal incarceration may not be as simple as the loss of education, however. Kristin Turney and Christopher Wildeman examine some of the nuances that come with this type of trauma. Their article was written in response to the increased incarceration at the time of writing and the lack of literature on the topic. Previously available literature examined this relationship only as a father’s relationship to the children and vice-versa but the way it affects maternal parenting is rarely considered. The authors showcase some ways in which the effect of trauma could be reduced but overall come to a conclusion that the situation is much more complex (Turney and Wildeman 2013). This article is well researched but only holds moderate relevance because it mostly provides the context for the theme.
Kristin Turney returns for the last article in this theme to examine the stress disorders that may develop in children whose fathers were incarcerated. The author touches upon the health issues that this event may bring to the child. Turney states that the trauma from the event may lead to learning disabilities, ADHD, speech and language problems (Turney 2014). While this issue was originally unexpected, the severity of its complications suggests that further research should be undertaken.
The childhood trauma that is related to immigration has been examined in two recent articles. The first touches upon the plight of unaccompanied children who immigrate without their birth parents. They subsequently become adopted by new parents, but such children require a certain level of parental fitness and care do avoid developing disorders and harmful behaviors later in life. They may struggle with becoming independent and have other social difficulties. The authors suggest that this is the result of policies and practices developed by the government for the care of children (Heidbrink 2017). The article provides an examination of a complex and often unreported issue. It also showcases a new negative consequence of childhood trauma.
Children of undocumented Mexican parents are the topic of the article by Lauren Gulbas and Luis Zayas. They describe the ways in which citizen children deal with the possibility of their parents being deported. The situation is very complex, and the framework provided by the article only slightly clarifies it. The authors argue that the children are at risk of developing social disorders due to the increased stress and fear (Gulbas and Zayas 2017). The article is slightly less relevant as it deals with a unique condition, but the effects that children experience should not be understated.
Social Disorders Associated With Victimization
Victimization is often the result of abuse and can lead to the development of social disorders. The first article on the topic examined a national sample of youth to determine the effects of victimization. Through a telephone survey of more than 2,000 people ages 10-17, the researchers measured the victimization in various domains of experiences. Child abuse, sexual victimization, and criminal activity were some of the more common domains. The worst effect on the children was when they were exposed to multiple domains at once, resulting in poly-victimization (Turner et al. 2013). The study shows that the issue of child abuse is prevalent and could be exacerbated by multiple times of victimization.
The next two articles share a topic but approach it from opposite perspectives. The article by Kristin Anderson examines the issue of violence in families and whether it could lead to the further reoccurrence of it later in life but comes to a conclusion that the studies show a decline in rates of familial abuse since the 2000s (Anderson 2010). The article from a French team of researchers is grimmer, however. They state that children who were exposed to more victimization within their families were more prone anger, depression, and anti-social behavior. Both articles are relevant because of their exploration of victimization.
An unusual article was examined on the relation of parental absence and voter turnouts later in life. Michael Sanses models the citation with the use of a nationally representative sample of adults and finds that according to his model, the absence of both parents only affects African-American voter turnout. The relevance of the article and its contents are questionable, but it is the only result that touches upon the absence of both parents and may still worth consideration.
Resilience in People Who Experienced Childhood Trauma
Despite the difficulty of childhood trauma, some mental and social disorders may be avoided or diminished through the resilience of the person. The first topic showcases this fact due to an extremely sensitive subject. Former Ugandan Child Soldiers were examined to find any possible presence of post-traumatic stress disorder. The results have shown that almost 30% had no signs of depression, PTSD, or any clinically significant behavioral problems (Klasen et al. 2010). The research shows that resilience can protect people even under such inhuman conditions.
Another factor that can play a role in the development of resilience or treatment after abuse may be spiritual in nature. The article published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion presented a study on the effects of faith in the resolution for childhood abuse. Religion is noted to have resulted in personal growth and self-acceptance in the examined participants (Gall et al. 2007). The paper is relevant and can be showcased as an example of positive recovery from abuse.
The topic of leadership by people who have experienced trauma has been covered by Ronald Manderscheid in his 2009 article. He explores the steps that a person who experienced trauma must take to become a leader. Childhood trauma is discussed among disaster and war-caused traumatic experiences (Manderscheid 2009). It is a less relevant article, but it examines the topic of resiliency well.
The strengths of this review are in the discovery of themes that were previously unconsidered by the author. However, its limitations are in the choice of the library, despite the vastness of JSTOR, only 10% of its documents have available abstracts so during precise search only a fraction of materials was available. The paper does showcase how childhood trauma may affect people in their adulthood and separates it into five different themes.
Anderson, Kristin L. 2010. “Conflict, Power, and Violence in Families.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72(3):726–42.
Blanchet-Cohen, Natasha and Rebeccah Nelems. 2013. “A Child-Centered Evaluation of a Psychosocial Program: Promoting Children’s Healing, Safety and Well-Being in Post-Disaster Contexts.” Children, Youth and Environments 23(1):23–42.
Dumont, Annie, Geneviève Lessard, Katie Cyr, Claire Chamberland, and Marie-Ève Clément. 2014. “L’exposition à La Violence Familiale: Effets Du Cumul d’autres Formes de Violence.” Criminologie 47(1):149–66.
Faris, Robert and Diane Felmlee. 2014. “Casualties of Social Combat: School Networks of Peer Victimization and Their Consequences.” American Sociological Review 79(2):228–57.
Gall, Terry Lynn, Viola Basque, Marizete Damasceno-Scott, and Gerard Vardy. 2007. “Spirituality and the Current Adjustment of Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46(1):101–17.
Gulbas, Lauren E. and Luis H. Zayas. 2017. “Exploring the Effects of U.S. Immigration Enforcement on the Well-Being of Citizen Children in Mexican Immigrant Families.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3(4):53–69.
Hagan, John and Holly Foster. 2015. “Mass Incarceration, Parental Imprisonment, and the Great Recession: Intergenerational Sources of Severe Deprivation in America.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 1(2):80–107.
Heidbrink, Lauren. 2017. “Assessing Parental Fitness and Care for Unaccompanied Children.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3(4):37–52.
Klasen, Fionna et al. 2010. “Posttraumatic Resilience in Former Ugandan Child Soldiers.” Child Development 81(4):1096–1113.
Klein, Daniel N. 2010. “Chronic Depression: Diagnosis and Classification.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 19(2):96–100.
Manderscheid, Ronald W. 2009. “Trauma-Informed Leadership.” International Journal of Mental Health 38(1):78–86.
Nelson, J.Ron, Scott Stage, Alex Trout, Kristin Duppong-Hurley, and Michael H. Epstein. 2008. “Which Risk Factors Predict the Basic Reading Skills of Children at Risk for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders?” Behavioral Disorders 33(2):75–86.
Nock, Matthew K. 2009. “Why Do People Hurt Themselves? New Insights Into the Nature and Functions of Self-Injury.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 18(2):78–83.
Porche, Michelle V., Lisa R. Fortuna, Julia Lin, and Margarita Alegria. 2011. “Childhood Trauma and Psychiatric Disorders as Correlates of School Dropout in a National Sample of Young Adults.” Child Development 82(3):982–98.
Sances, Michael W. 2013. “Disenfranchisement Through Divorce? Estimating the Effect of Parental Absence on Voter Turnout.” Political Behavior 35(1):199–213.
Schafer, Markus H., Lindsay R. Wilkinson, and Kenneth F. Ferraro. 2013. “Childhood (Mis)Fortune, Educational Attainment, and Adult Health: Contingent Benefits of a College Degree?” Social Forces 91(3):1007–34.
Turner, Heather A., Anne Shattuck, Sherry Hamby, and David Finkelhor. 2013. “Community Disorder, Victimization Exposure, and Mental Health in a National Sample of Youth.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 54(2):258–75.
Turney, Kristin. 2014. “Stress Proliferation across Generations? Examining the Relationship between Parental Incarceration and Childhood Health.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55(3):302–19.
Turney, Kristin and Anna R. Haskins. 2014. “Falling Behind? Children’s Early Grade Retention after Paternal Incarceration.” Sociology of Education 87(4):241–58.
Turney, Kristin and Christopher Wildeman. 2013. “Redefining Relationships: Explaining the Countervailing Consequences of Paternal Incarceration for Parenting.” American Sociological Review 78(6):949–79.
Youcha, Isaac. 2013. “Long-Term Psychological and Physiological Consequences of Trauma in Childhood Revisited: Implications for the Group Therapist’s Use of Methods and Styles of Leadership.” Group 37(1):41–56.