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What Are The Effects Of Trauma On Young Children (0-6 Years)?

The possible effects of childhood trauma on children under the age of six years are extensive and can be divided into three main categories. These three categories are as follows :

  • BEHAVIOURAL EFFECTS
  • COGNITIVE EFFECTS (i.e. effects on thinking and conscious mental processes)
  • PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS (i.e. effects on physical health and biological processes)

Below, I list the possible effects of being exposed to prolonged and significant trauma on young children :

A) FROM 0 YEARS OLD TO TWO YEARS OLD 

B) FROM THREE YEARS OLD TO SIX YEARS OLD 

A) POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON CHILDREN AGED 0 TO 2 YEARS :

BEHAVIOURAL :

Aggression

Regressive behaviour

Extreme temper tantrums

Fear of adults connected to the traumatic experiences

Fear of separation from the parent / primary caregiver (see my article about separation anxiety)

Irritability

Anxiety

Sadness

Withdrawn behaviour

Highly sensitive ‘startle response’

Prone to excessive screaming and crying

COGNITIVE :

Memory impairment

Impairment of verbal skills

PHYSIOLOGICAL :

Sleep problems

Nightmares

Reduced appetite

Low weight

Problems with the digestive system

B) POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON CHILDREN AGED 3 TO 6 YEARS 

BEHAVIOURAL :

Aggression

Regressive behaviour

Extreme temper tantrums

Fear of adults connected to the traumatic experiences

Fear of separation from the parent / primary caregiver 

Irritability

Anxiety

Sadness

Withdrawn behaviour

Highly sensitive ‘startle response’

Low self-confidence

Anxiety / Fearfulness

Avoidant behaviour

Difficulty placing trust in others

Difficulties making friends

Self-blame in relation to traumatic experiences

Acting out

Imitating the abusive behaviour suffered (e.g. by bullying school peers)

Reenacting traumatic event

Verbal aggression

COGNITIVE :

Memory impairment

Impairment of verbal skills

Problems with concentration and associated problems with learning

PHYSIOLOGICAL :

Sleep problems

Nightmares

Psychosomatic complaints such as headaches and stomach aches

Regressive behaviour (i.e. behaving in ways associated with an earlier period of development such as stress-related bed-wetting)

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)