There exists a clear link between the experience of childhood trauma and the development of mental illness in later life ; in other words, the greater the experience of trauma during childhood, the more likely one will suffer from psychological difficulties in the future.
However, if we ask : ‘Is mental illness caused by trauma during childhood?‘ this is too complex a question to receive a simple answer. Whether or not it does so will depend upon numerous factors, the main ones of which are as follows :
- the type of trauma (e.g. physical, sexual and emotional abuse)
- the severity of the traumatic experience
- whether the traumatic experience was a single event or was frequent / chronically ongoing (in general, chronically ongoing trauma is likely to damage psychologically the child more than ‘single event’ trauma)
- the age / developmental stage of the child at the time of the traumatic event/s (in general, the younger the child at the time the trauma takes place, the more severe the adverse effects of the trauma on the child’s mental health are likely to be)
- whether or not the harm inflicted upon the child was deliberatethe relationship to the child of the perpetrator of the harmful event/s (if the perpetrator is related to the child – e.g. one of the child’s parents – the more severe the psychological harm inflicted upon the child is likely to be),
- the level of the child’s resilience
- the level of psychological support the child receives to help him/her cope with / process the traumatic event/s
- biological / genetic factors
- societal / cultural factors
- the child’s perception and interpretation of the potentially traumatic events
In conclusion, then, we can say that the degree to which an individual is adversely affected by traumatic childhood experiences will depend upon numerous, complex and interacting factors.
BRIEF SELECTION OF RELATED ARTICLES (however, there are over 800 other free articles on this site related to childhood trauma in total):
- Factors That Put The Child’s Mental Health At Risk
- Six Vital Factors That Make Children More Resilient To Trauma
- Twelve Examples Of Traumatic Childhood Experiences
- Effects Of Severe And Long Lasting (Chronic) Childhood Trauma
- The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (perhaps the best known study into the relationship between ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACEs) and the later development of psychological problems).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).