Childhood Trauma Affects Adults Later in Life

By Heddy Keith M. Ed, CH, CI

Trauma is an experience that produces psychological injury or emotional pain. Traumatic experiences often occur during childhood. Both positive and negative experiences have a tremendous impact on future violence, victimization, perpetration, and lifelong health outcomes. These early experiences are important public issues.

Risky behaviors are linked to early traumatic experiences, such as chronic health conditions, low potential, and premature death in adults. Much of the research in this area is referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As the number of ACEs increases so does the risk for these outcomes. Research indicates that victims of one assault are most likely to have other assaults. People who have been violent in one context are likely to be violent in another.

With these different forms comes sharing common consequences that have effects across the lifespan such as mental, emotional, physical or social problems. They may contribute to chronic health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, or diabetes. These children share familiar risks and protective factors

A risk factor is a characteristic that increases the likelihood of a person becoming a victim or perpetrator, it could be early aggressive behavior, lack of parental supervision, academic problems, undiagnosed mental health issues, peer substance use, drug availability, poverty, peer rejection, and child abuse or neglect.  The presence of a risk factor does not mean a person will always experience violence. Victims are never responsible for the harm inflicted upon them.

A protective factor is a characteristic which decreases the probability of a person becoming a victim or perpetrator, such as parental resilience, social connections, the social emotional competence of the children, as well as good parenting and child development skills, It provides a buffer against the risk.

Maltreatment of children includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role. There are five types of trauma:

 

  1. Physical
  2. Verbal
  3. Sexual
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect

An estimated 1 in 4 children has some form of child abuse or neglect in his or her lifetime. In 2015 about 1,670 children died nationwide from abuse or neglect. The total lifetime costs are estimated at $124 billion a year.

Today’s Youth is always in hyperarousal. Post and Present Trauma is ongoing chronic stress. “Hurt, people, hurt people.”

Anyone who has experienced, witnessed, read about, participated in, or heard about a tragic event on the radio, television, magazines, newspapers, or on social media has been traumatized.

A Harvard study found that with repeated trauma the hippocampus gets overloaded–fight or flight response in the brain begin to generalize. Youth are overloaded with stress hormones. Many modern-day teenagers:

  • Are always in fight or flight mode
  • Have trouble learning
  • Don’t trust adults.
  • Have anxiety can’t sleep.
  • Have trouble handling emotions.
  • Have stomach aches or headaches.
  • Have self-destructive behavior.
  • Are at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators and or turning to drugs and alcohol.

Trauma affects children. Some learn to suppress and protect themselves, by pretending it never happened. The mind suppresses it to survive the pain. The brain knows how to protect us. The child functions as usual. Memories start to come out gradually. There will come a day when the child or adult gets flashbacks or dreams. The brain says it’s time to deal with this; you’re ready.

The mind says, “I’m not going to let you deal with this trauma, but you will remember the smell, and you won’t like it.” The subconscious mind stores and records millions of bits of information.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron

Classroom teachers see these behaviors every day in disruptive students, not knowing why they are behaving in such a way. Disruptive students not only shut down their learning process, but they also become an obstacle to other students who want to learn. Traumatized children suffering from multiple traumas need special attention.To Love and Lesso

Heddykeith, author of Through it All: A Memoir of Love and Loss, The Men I Chose To Love and Lessons Learned

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