Neglect, Abuse And Other Forms Of Childhood Trauma

Negative Impact of Childhood Trauma

According to various research studies, approximately 4 million children are exposed to trauma in the U.S. every year. Due to such traumatic experiences, these children are susceptible to psychological disorders and serious emotional turmoil, often needing the assistance provided in trauma therapy.

These experiences may be positive or negative, ranging in their severity. Some of these experiences occur on a semi-regular basis, and others only happen once. Despite their varying factors however, each of these events make an impact in the life of a child. In some cases trauma treatment centers are incorporated to help the child overcome such trauma.

Types of Childhood Trauma

There are numerous ways a child can be affected by trauma. Several examples include:

  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, flood)
  • Car or plane crashes
  • War
  • Witnessing a death, murder or suicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Shootings (Drive-by shooting, school shooting)
  • Incest
  • Fires
  • Severe neglect
  • Violence in the home
  • Hostage situations

General violence or an unexpected disaster can be very traumatic to a child, even if such an experience may not have seemed to be very serious. After a traumatic event like those listed above, attendance at a trauma treatment center is often recommended.

Neglect in Children

One form of trauma that only occurs in children and sometimes in adolescents is neglect. In fact, this is probably the most common form of reported abuse. Neglect comes in many different forms, with varying extremes.

What is neglect? Neglect takes place when a child does not receive the comfort and nourishment needed in their early years of life. While some cases of this may be more severe, such as starvation or lack of shelter, some cases may occur slowly and go unnoticed. Seemingly insignificant forms of neglect include lack of medical care, not giving proper emotional support, a poor education or frequently leaving the child alone or in the care of an incapable third party.

The lack of proper emotional support previously mentioned is also known as emotional and psychological abuse. This abuse can be termed as ignoring a child, withholding love and affection, constantly teasing the child, corrupting a child through inappropriate materials or deceiving the child/acting untrustworthy. This form of neglect is especially common, but may cause severe alterations in the brain of a child affecting their stability later in life. Forms of trauma recovery, such as trauma therapy are often beneficial to children suffering from neglect.

Symptoms of Trauma in Children

A child can react in a number of different ways as a result of trauma. The following are some examples:

  • Anxiety, terror
  • Withdrawn from others
  • Constantly alert
  • Re-enactment of situation with various objects
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Amnesia
  • Poor self-image
  • Bedwetting
  • Guilty feelings
  • Shows signs of obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Panic attacks
  • Recurrent nightmares, flashbacks
  • Shyness
  • Avoidance of situations similar to the traumatic event
  • Pain
  • Inability to give or receive proper love and affection

Effects of Trauma in Children

The effects of childhood trauma vary greatly, depending on the type and severity of the traumatic experience. Examples of these effects include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Self-injury
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Drug Abuse typically requiring the help of a drug rehab facility
  • Insomnia
  • Promiscuity
  • Difficulty learning, struggling in school
  • Brain alterations
  • Suicide
  • Eating disorders which sometimes may require the attention of a qualified eating disorder treatment center
  • Extreme anger and hostility

In some cases, trauma is not immediately evident. Sometimes trauma does not show up until much later in life or until it is triggered by certain circumstances. In these cases, drug abuse is common and is often so severe that drug rehab at a drug treatment center is needed.

Brain Alterations from Trauma

Every one of our life experiences change our brain in one way or another, some making a deeper impression on us. When trauma occurs in someone early in life the brain is much more susceptible to drastic alteration. Many of the children exposed to such events will develop neuropsychiatric symptomatology.

During a traumatic experience, various areas of the brain respond. These areas are often altered as a result, permanently impacting future functioning in the brain. After these alterations, if recovery is to be sought, special trauma therapy sessions are necessary to attempt to activate parts of the brain. This is done in an effort to understand and manipulate any emotional or behavioral changes that have taken place. The sooner such trauma treatment is begun, the better chance for recovery. A traumatized child should not have to forever suffer the consequences of an unexpected event or of someone else’s choices. Trauma recovery at an effective trauma treatment center can help provide hope and a future for victims of trauma.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.