Childhood Trauma

Every child deserves to be loved, protected, cherished and respected - without exception.

Childhood Trauma can refer to...

Single Event Trauma - Some examples include:  car accidents or other accidents;  experienced or witnessed assault​;  witnessed death or suicide; life-threatening illness requiring aggressive/painful treatments; etc.


Ongoing or Long-Term Trauma*  -  Some examples include:

emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse; neglect; racism; bullying; witnessed domestic violence; kidnapping; living in a war zone​; witnessing the prolonged and painful death of a loved one; etc.

*When trauma is prolonged and occurs in an environment of captivity - such as is often the case with child abuse - it is referred to as complex trauma (Herman, 1992).

Whether a child who survives trauma will develop PTSD is determined by a number of factors including:

● the child's age and developmental stage when the trauma occurred;

● the kind of support the child received prior to, during, and after the trauma;

● whether the child was under additional stressors (physical or emotional) at the time of the trauma;

● how long the trauma lasted; and

● whether the trauma was caused intentionally by another person, and if so, whether that person was in the role of a trusted care giver.

Common trauma symptoms observed among survivors of complex trauma include:

  • greater vulnerability to repeated harm that is self-inflicted (e.g., self-injury, eating disorders, substance abuse) or at the hands of others
  • frequent feelings of being "zoned out" or "spaced out"
  • denial or amnesia about all or parts of the trauma
  • injury to self-concept (e.g., believing oneself to be "damaged", "broken", shameful or unloveable)
  • ongoing physical symptoms with no apparent physiological cause
  • difficulty managing or regulating emotions
  • inability to trust and/or feel close to others
  • lack of purpose or meaning in life
  • development of a bond with the perpetrator

(Courtois, 2004; Ford, Courtois, Steele, van der Hart & Nijenhuis, 2005; Herman, 1992, van der Kolk, 2002)​​