So-Called ‘Low – Level’ Childhood Trauma Can Damage Brain Development

brain damage

Research conducted at the University Of Cambridge, UK, in 2014 has shown that trauma that some may regard as ‘low-level’ can adversely affect the developing brain leading to adult psychological problems (such as severe depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder), behavioral problems (such as aggression and violence) and physical problems (such as increased risk of heart attack and stroke).

The study looked at how traumatic experiences that a group of children had suffered from between the ages of nought and eleven years had impacted on their brain development.

Information about the children’s exposure to traumatic experiences was gathered by interviewing their parents (although it is acknowledged that it is possible some parents’ reports may not have been perfectly accurate).

The effects of these traumatic experiences on the children’s brain development was measured through the use of brain imaging techniques.

The experiment found that relatively common and relatively ‘low level’ trauma can adversely affect physical brain development and disrupt the brain’s biochemical balance. These adverse effects can then make the individual’s adult life extremely difficult and problematic in ways that I have already alluded to in the first paragraph.

Examples Of Relatively Common And Relatively ‘Low – Level Traumatic Experiences’ That Can Damage The Developing Brain:

(N.B.  I place the phrase ‘low – level traumatic experiences’ in inverted commas as many would not consider them such, particularly those on the receiving end).

– recurring teasing

– recurring humiliation

– recurring shaming

– recurring blaming

– lack of affection from parents

– constant criticism (especially when never or rarely ‘counterbalanced’ with praise)

– ongoing parental discord/arguments/conflict

– parental abandonment (e.g. due to divorce or separation)

– inconsistent parenting

– growing up with a depressed parent

(the above list is not exhaustive, of course).


To read more about how childhood trauma can harm the brain click here.

To read how the damaged brain can repair itself click here.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


David Hosier MSc

David Hosier MSc

Psychologist and writer. Founder of at
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of Survivor of severe childhood trauma.
David Hosier MSc

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