What Is Childhood Trauma?
There is no one, absolute and precise definition of childhood trauma. However, experts in the field of its study generally agree that an individual’s traumatic experience will be related to one or more of the following three types of abuse:
1) Emotional abuse
2) Physical abuse
3) Sexual abuse
In the past it was generally agreed amongst clinicians that sexual abuse had the most significant adverse impact on the child’s subsequent development. However, it is important to point out that more up-to-date research shows emotional and physical abuse can be just as damaging (some children will experience a combination of two or more of the three types).
The exact nature of the abuse will be inextricably intertwined with the developmental problems which emerge in the individual as a result of it.
There is a problem, though, with the categorization method. This is because the three individual categories do not tend to take account of neglect. Neglect may involve a parent or carer doing nothing to intervene to prevent the child from being abused by someone else, or a parent burdening a young child with their own psychological problems which the child is not old or mature enough to cope with. A parent or carer might neglect a child knowingly or unknowingly.
How Common is Child Abuse?
It is difficult to know the true figures as childhood abuse is often covered up or unreported. Also, accurate figures are hindered by the fact childhood abuse cannot be precisely defined.
However, current estimates in the UK suggest about 12% of children experience physical abuse and 11% experience sexual abuse.
So if you have been abused as a child, you are far from alone.
Childhood Trauma And Personal Meaning :
Whilst it is impossible to precisely define child abuse, what is important is the PERSONAL MEANING the sufferer ATTACHES to it. In other words, recognizing the problems a person has developed as a result of the abuse and providing therapy to help the individual deal with those problems is more important than precisely defining the traumatic experience which caused the problems, and arguing about whether it technically qualifies as abuse or not.
Events in childhood which cause trauma are often referred to as ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES or ACEs) in the literature. To view an infographic of ACEs, please click here.
Other Resources Related To Childhood Trauma :
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).