David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE), Author at Childhood Trauma Recovery - Page 2 of 17

Author Archives: David Hosier Bsc Hons; Msc; Pgde(fahe)

Psychologist, researcher and educationalist.

Childhood Trauma And ‘Shattered Assumptions’ Theory

One of the major effects of childhood trauma, especially if it has led us, as adults, to develop conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD),is that it can radically alter our most fundamental and core beliefs about how the world and our lives operate.

In this way, prolonged and significant childhood trauma can transform the core belief that the world is generally a safe place for us to inhabit into the opposite core belief that ‘the world is a dangerous and threatening place and I must be constantly on guard and hypervigilant.’

This idea is reflected in Professor Janoff-Bulman’s (University of Massuhusetts Amherst) ‘SHATTERED ASSUMPTIONS’ THEORY (1992) which proposes (amongst other things) that the experience of trauma can eradicate the optimistic view that, as long as we do the right things in life, everything will be O.K. In other words, our (pre-trauma) assumption that we are safe in the world is shattered.

REBUILDING ASSUMPTIONS AND THE POTENTIAL FOR POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH :

When our fundamental assumptions about the world are shattered in this way, it is necessary, according to Janoff-Bulman, for us to rebuild our internal, mental representation of the world and it has been proposed that two therapies that can help us to achieve this are : cognitive processing therapy and exposure therapy.

Such therapies can help us to ‘cognitively restructure’ our view of our traumatic experience, ourselves and the world in general. This ‘cognitive restructuring’ process may entail, at first, attempting to make sense of the traumatizing events we have lived through ; initially, this may give rise to automatic thoughts relating to our trauma that we find intrusive and distressing.

However, later on in the process, such negative ruminations can transform into more positive thoughts and feelings, such as finding meaning in what has happened to us, learning to accept our view of the world might have changed and coming to a mental accommodation with this fact, and, ulimately, acquiring greater wisdom and personal / spiritual growth, also known as POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH.

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

Signs An Adult Was Abused As A Child

 

 

CLICK ON VIDEO ABOVE FOR ARTICLE SUMMARY

(or, to visit my YouTube Channel : CLICK HERE)

 

The list below shows possible symptoms of childhood trauma :

1) DISSOCIATION :

Symptoms of dissociation can range from mild to severe : Mild symptoms of dissociation include ‘zoning out’ and feeling in a daze, whereas severe symptoms of dissociation may include amnesia, time loss and feeling out of control. For several concise articles about dissociation, please visit the CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND DISSOCIATION section of this site.

2) UNSTABLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS :

For example, an individual who has suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma may oscillate between idealizing others and demonizing them (as in so-called ‘love-hate’ relationships).

3) PROBLEMS WITH BEHAVIOR : 

This may include anti-social behavior leading to conflict with the law (especially in the case of males who were abused as children).

4) EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION :

An individual who is ’emotionally dysregulated’ has extreme emotions and difficulty controlling them.

5) HYPERVIGILANCE : 

An individual who is hypervigilant feels constantly under threat, vulnerability, unsafe, insecure and in danger, as if his/her nervous system were stuck on ‘red-alert.’ Individuals with a history of childhood maltreatment may fluctuate between states of hypervigilance and dissociation (see first item on this list, above).

6) UNFULFILLED ACADEMIC POTENTIAL :

For more on this topic, see my article entitled : Effects Of Childhood Trauma On Educational Achievement

7) IRRATIONAL FEELINGS OF SHAME AND SELF-HATRED :

For articles about these all too common irrational feelings, please visit the SHAME AND SELF-HATRED section of this site.

8) ALCOHOLISM / DRUG ADDICTION : Individuals who have experienced traumatic childhoods may become dependent on alcohol or drugs in attempt to reduce emotional pain and suffering (this is linked to ‘dissociation’ – see first item on this list, above).

9) INTRUSIVE AND DISTURBING MEMORIES :

As well as intrusive and disturbing memories of abuse, the survivor of childhood trauma may also suffer from more nebulous, but equally upsetting, feelings and emotions connected to the abuse (e.g. when lying in bed at night), together with nightmares,  night terrors and associated insomnia.

10)  DEPRESSION

11)  ANXIETY

12)  COMPLEX POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

13)  BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER

14)  COMFORT EATING AND ASSOCIATED OBESITY

15) SELF-HARMING BEHAVIORS

16) THOUGHTS ABOUT SUICIDE

RELATED SELF-HELP RESOURCES :

Overcome Hypervigilance | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Insecurity in Relationships | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Stop Self Hate | Self Hypnosis Downloads

How to Stop Comfort Eating | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Stop Recurring Nightmares / Dreams | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Control My Emotions Pack | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Build Self Esteem With Hypnosis | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Overcome Fear and Anxiety | Self Hypnosis Downloads

  • Advice About Professional Help / Possible Treatments/ Therapies For Adults Abused As A Child, Click here.

Factors That Increase Risk Parents Will Abuse :

The number of parents who abuse their children is unknown as not all cases come to light.

However, it is known that most abuse occurs within the home by those who live with the child.

CONVICTIONS :

In 2012, 3785 adults were found guilty of child abuse or cautioned by police having admitted it.

These figures break down as follows :

– cruelty/neglect : 2179

– sex with child under 13 : 351

– sex with child under 16 : 116

– gross indecency with a child : 88

(ministry of Justice, 2013)

RELATIONSHIP OF ABUSER TO CHILD :

Over 90% of those found to have abused children lived with the child they abused

GENDER OF PERPETRATOR :

In relation to PHYSICAL ABUSE – numbers of male and female offenders were about equal

In relation to SEVERE PHYSICAL ABUSE – 73% of offenders were male (Redford et al, 2011)

In relation to NEGLECT – about 66% were female

In relation to EMOTIONAL ABUSE – numbers of male and female offenders was about equal (Sedlak et al, 2010)

In relation to SEXUAL ABUSE – 97% were male (Radford et al, 2011). However, it is also believed that more females who abuse in this way go UNDETECTED than their male counterparts.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION OF OFFENDERS :

Approx:

– 75% heterosexual

– 14% bisexual

– 11% homosexual

AGE OF OFFENDERS :

In relation to PHYSICAL ABUSE – younger mothers are more likely to offend than older mothers

In relation to SEXUAL ABUSE – under 18s are more likely to offend in this way than are adults. Of these U18’s who offend in this way a study by Radford et al. in 2007 found that 97% were boys and 60% of them were already known to the victim – indeed, 20% were family members.

A NOTE ON ‘SEXTING’: this has been defined by Ringrose et al. (2012) as the creating, sharing and/or forwarding of nude/nearly nude pictures of under 18s (by electronic means). Research suggests that between 15% and 40% of young people have been involved in this and that such activity is sometimes linked to bullying and harassment.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE :

About 25% of abusers have a substance misuse problem.

About 66% of children who live in a family with an alcoholic member has suffered PHYSICAL ABUSE.

About 25% of children who live in such families have suffered SEXUAL ABUSE.

About 50% of children who live in such a family have suffered NEGLECT (for example, the parent is often EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE when drunk or hung-over)

It is also noteworthy that the child is at greater risk if it is the FATHER who is alcoholic rather than the mother.

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS :

A study by Glaser and Prior, 1997, found that approx. 33% of those who had been abused had a parent with mental health problems

SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS:

Abuse is more common in areas of low socioeconomic status. This is thought to be due to increased stress rates, lack of social support and, possibly, that there is more likely to exist a culture that is more accepting of physical punishment.

PARENTS WHO WERE THEMSELVES ABUSED AS CHILDREN :

It has been suggested that those who were abused as children our more likely to abuse themselves once they become parents as they FAILED TO LEARN GOOD PARENTING SKILLS AS CHILDREN due to the lack of an appropriate role model.

In relation to PHYSICAL ABUSE : those who were physically abused themselves as children were found to be FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY than those who had not to physically abuse their own children.

In relation to NEGLECT : those who had been neglected as children were found to be 2.6 times more likely to neglect their own children than those who had not.

OVERALL, research suggests that those who abuse their own children were usually abused as children themselves (although it does not follow, of course, that those who have been abused will always abuse their own children).

PARENTS WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES :

This group is NOT more likely to abuse their children; however, they are more likely to be exploited by those who wish to get to know them so that they may gain access to their children with the objective of abusing them.

THE SO-CALLED ‘VICTIM TO ABUSER CYCLE’ :

Irenyi et al, 2006, coined the phrase ‘victim to offender cycle’ which hypothesizes that victims of child abuse tend to go on to become the future perpetrators of such abuse. However, this idea is somewhat controversial as the evidence is conflicting.

However, some research suggests that those who sexually abuse children tend to :

– lack empathy

– have poor self-esteem

– have poor social skills

– have a preference for the company of children

– have themselves been abused as children

– be educational underachievers

– have problems relating to others

However, these findings come from a sample that cannot be considered representative as the sample obviously will not include individuals whose offences have not come to light.

Keeping this in mind, it has also been found:

52% of those who sexually abuse children are heavily reliant upon alcohol to reduce inhibition and cope with remorse/shame.

The researcher, Finkelhor (1984) suggested such offenders pass through 4 stages:

1) feel sexual attraction towards minors

2) justify/rationalize their behaviour so as to ease own conscience

3) create situations in which offending becomes possible, perhaps by gaining necessary trust/manipulation etc

4) overcome child’s resistance e.g. with gifts/bribes/’special’ attention or (rarely) threats/force

SEXUAL OFFENDERS UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN:

Such individuals are generally teenage boys. Research suggests that they tend to:

– have trouble controlling their own emotions

– have poor social skills

– have poor coping skills

– be prone to social anxiety

– have little insight into both their own emotional needs and the emotional needs of others

– have been abused by others themselves (physically, emotionally or sexually)

(again, however, the sample from which these findings come are bound to be non-representative)

It is very unusual for girls under the age of 18 to sexually abuse other children but those who do tend to have been abused themselves in ways that are particularly serious

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

How Context Affects The Child’s Reaction To Trauma

Traumatic childhood experiences, obviously, do not occur in a vacuum but within the context of the child’s life as a whole. All elements of this context will interact with the direct effects of the traumatic experience. These elements can be divided into two broad categories :

1. The child’s own, personal qualities (sometimes referred to as ‘child-intrinsic’ factors)

Examples of these include the child’s temperament (i.e. innate and enduring personality traits present from birth, such as proneness to anxiety) ; the state of the child’s mental health prior to the traumatic experiences ; and whether or not he has experienced prior, significant trauma (the negative impact of childhood trauma is cumulative – see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.

2. Qualities relating to the child’s environment (sometimes referred to as ‘child-extrinsic’ factors) :

Examples include the child’s family (e.g. if one parent is abusive, is there another family member / extended family member to whom he [i.e. the child] can turn for emotional support?) ; the physical environment (e.g. Is the home overcrowded? Does it lack educational / leisure resources?) ; the community within which the child lives (e.g. are youth clubs available to the child that could have a positive influence on his mental health?) ; and the culture surrounding the child (e.g. cultural influences upon the level of stigma associated with the cause of the trauma, if any).

RESLIENCE AND VULNERABILITY :

The positive factors listed above (in both categories) are likely to increase the child’s resilience to the adverse effects of the trauma (in relation to this, you might be interested in reading my previously published article entitled Ten Ways To Build Resilience), whereas the negative factors are likely to increase his vulnerability to these potential, adverse effects.

In combination, the elements will interactively affect how the child perceives and, therefore, how he internally experiences, the traumatic events he undergoes, including the degree to which he feels in under threat and in danger and the extent to which he feels safe and protected.

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

A Study Into The Main Effects Of Mentally Ill Mothers On Their Children

A study (McCormac et al.) conducted at the University of Newcastle was conducted to investigate the main effects on childrens’ behavioral and emotional states of being brought up by a mentally ill mother (a total of 13 mothers with serious mental disorders and had previously been hospitalized in psychiatric wards participated in the study). Information used in the study was gathered using semi-structured interviews.

RESULTS OF THE STUDY :

Overall, the children involved in the study were described as having experienced ‘a fractured journey of growth’ into adulthood, and, more specifically, the adverse effects of such an upbringing were delineated into six main themes. These six themes were as follows :

1) STIGMA :

The feeling of being different from their peers is particularly painful for children and, accordingly, the perceived stigma (due to misunderstanding, fear, prejudice, ignorance etc.) surrounding having a mentally ill parent was found to be a significant theme that emerged from the study.

2) SOCIAL ISOLATION :

Many forms of chronic childhood trauma can impair the child’s ability to form and maintain good relationships with peers, leading to social rejection. Also, a sense of shame (see below) can inhibit the child’s inclination to try to make friends. Furthermore, some children of mentally ill parents may become ‘parentified‘ or become their parent’s emotional caretaker, leaving little time to socialize.

3) SHAME :

It is a very unfortunate fact that, when children are traumatized by their parents, they tend to blame themselves and, therefore, are liable to experience feelings guilty and a pervasive sense of shame. This is especially true if their parent’s illness has not been explained to them and they do not understand it (especially in terms of how it adversely impacts on their parent’s behavior towards them).

4) BETRAYAL:

To be chronically abused and maltreated by the very people who are supposed to love, nurture and protect one is to experience a profound sense of betrayal and, indeed, this was found to be one of the emergent six major themes underlying derived from the data collected.

5) PURPOSEFUL REDEFINITION OF SELF :

More positively, another main theme was found to be the development of the ability to ‘redefine’ the self.

For example, one participant explained that despite his childhood experiences initially leading to feelings of self-hatred (irrational self-hatred, sadly, is an all too typical response to having been subjected to chronic childhood ill-treatment, e.g. see my previously published article entitled : Childhood Trauma Leading To Self-Hatred And Intense Self-Criticism), as an adult he was able to reflect, and understand, how his painful, early life experiences had affected him, and, as a result, become self-accepting (in relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled : Self-Acceptance More Helpful To Mental Health Than Self-Esteem).

Others were able to gain a greater sense of personal authenticity by undertaking higher education.

6) PSYCHOLOGICAL GROWTH :

Again, on the positive side, some participants in the study described how their extremely challenging experiences had, ultimately, made them stronger, more resourceful, more compassionate, more empathetic and more authentic. (In relation to this, you might be interested to read my previously published article entitled : Posttraumatic Growth : How Trauma Can Positively Transform Us.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THERAPY :

Despite the potential negative effects of childhood trauma, the experience can also lead to positive changes in the individual, lending support to the concept of posttraumatic growth – an understanding of this can help those who have suffered maltreatment in childhood to reframe their view of the implications of their experiences in a way which helps them to take a more hopeful view of their future personal development.

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

Short Videos

A Study Into The Adverse Effects Of Psychologically Controlling Parents

A study (Stafford et al.) conducted at University College, London suggests that individuals who have been brought up by psychologically controlling parents during their childhoods are at significantly greater risk of suffering from mental health problems in later life than those brought up by less psychologically controlling parents.

EXAMPLES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTROL OF CHILDREN BY PARENTS MEASURED IN THE STUDY :

  • invading the child’s privacy
  • encouraging the child to be excessively dependent
  • not allowing the child to make his / her own decisions

THE STUDY (PARTICIPANTS AND METHOD):

The study tracked 5,632 individuals from their birth in 1946, all were from the U.K. Information was gathered via questionnaires about their relationships with their parents and, also, about their mental health during the following periods of their life :

  • adolescence
  • their 30s
  • their 40s
  • and when they were between the ages of 60 and 64.

What Specific Problems Can Those Brought Up By Psychologically Controlling Parents Develop?

According to the study, those brought up by psychologically controlling parents can develop various problems including :

In combination, the above factors had a powerful and enduring adverse effect upon the individuals’ mental well-being throughout their lives.

What Types Of Parental Behavior Help To Ensure Their Off-Springs’ Mental Well-Being :

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that the most important parental behaviors that help to ensure their off-springs’ mental well-being were their care (e.g. listening to, and displaying understanding of, the child’s problems), warmth, friendliness and responsiveness.

Comparing The Effects Of The Mothers’ Treatment Of Their Children And The Farhers’ Treatment Of Their Children :

CHILDHOOD TO MIDDLE-AGE : the mothers’ and the fathers’ care were found in the study to be of equal importance during these stages of the individuals’ lives.

DURING THE INDIVIDUALS’ LATER LIVES : the fathers’ level of care had a greater positive impact on their mental well-being in comparison to the mothers’ level of care.

CONCLUSIONS DRAWN BY THE RESEARCHERS :

The researchers concluded that, given the vital role parents (both mothers and fathers) play in the mental health of their children, government policies need to reflect this by helping parents reduce their stress via economic interventions and the encouragement of a healthy work-life balance, thus providing them with more time and energy to develop positive relationships with their children, which, in turn, should help to produce mentally healthier adults.

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

Childhood Trauma Leading To Over-Dominant Brain Stem

A Simple Overview Of The Brain’s Structure And Development :

A simplified way of describing the structure of the brain is to think of it as comprising three main regions that develop in the following order from birth to a person’s early or mid-twenties.

FIRST TO DEVELOP : The brain stem and mid-brain :

Main functions : Sensory / motor and basic survival mechanisms (‘fight / flight’)

SECOND TO DEVELOP : The limbic brain :

Main functions : Emotional development, behavior and attachment

THIRD TO DEVELOP : The cortical brain :

Main function : inhibition, thinking, language, planning, decision-making, abstract thought and learning

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND THE BRAIN STEM :

As described above, it is the brain stem’s function to preserve our safety in dangerous situations (by physiologically preparing us for ‘fight or flight‘).

However, when a chid has been traumatized over an extended period and has been excessively exposed to frightening situations, the brain stem can become overative and over-dominant so that the brain is on a constant state of ‘red-alert’ (giving rise to feelings of hypervigilance, edginess, agitation and constant fear) even in situations which are, in objective terms, very safe.

IN SHORT, THE CHILD BECOMES ‘LOCKED INTO SURVIVAL MODE’, primed to lash out (figuratively or literally) or run away (again, figuratively or literally). And, of course, in the case of the former, rhis can lead to him / her being wrongly labelled as ‘bad’ whereas, in fact, his or her behavior is essentially due to what can reasonably described as brain injury incurred due to the traumatic events to which s/he has been subjected.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT AND ASSOCIATED PROBLEMS :

Such children are, in effect, ‘stuck’ at the first stage of brain development shown above (i.e. the brain stem / mid brain developmental stage).

Unfortunately, this means the child is not only locked into feeling constantly hyperalert to perpetually anticipated danger and profoundly unsafe, but can suffer from other significant impairments (see below):

OTHER PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH BEING STUCK AT THE STAGE OF BRAIN STEM DEVELOPMENT :

Being locked into the brain stem development stage also prevents the higher regions of the brain (i.e. the limbic brain and the cortical brain, as described above) from developing properly, and, therefore, also from functioning properly.

This can mean that the child is unable to form attachments or control his/her emotions (due to the damage done to the ‘limbic brain‘ ) and is also unable to propely perform the functions of the ‘cortical brain’, including : inhibition (thus leading to impulsive behavior) planning, decision-making, reflecting and learning. Such problems can manifest themselves in numerous ways, including being unable to form friendships at school, ‘mis-behaving’ in class and learning difficulties)

THERAPIES :

Bottom-Up’ (as opposed to ‘Top-Down’) therapies such as SENSORIMOTOR PSYCHOTHERAPY can be of benefit to individuals affected by ‘brain stem’ associated problems and it is generally agreed that these problems should be addressed prior to addressing problems associated with the ‘limbic brain’ and ‘cortical brain’ in order to give the latter the greatest chance of success.

eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details.

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

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