The Importance Of Understanding The Meaning Of The Traumatized Child’s Behaviour.

When trying to understand why a traumatized child is behaving in a particular way – such as being prone to outbursts of rage aggression or being perpetually withdrawn – it is important to remember that all behaviour carries with it meaning and is a form of (often unconscious) communication.

When a child is behaving in a negative way, which is exacerbating the level of stress any particular family is having to cope with, parents/primary carers may focus solely upon exerting control over the child by using cognitive (e.g. self-instruction, self-praise,, thinking about benefits of achieving a particular goal etc.)and behavioural strategies (e.g. using a rewards chart, creating a family rules board, selective ignoring, having a consistent rewards/consequences approach to the child’s behaviour etc.).

However, an alternative way of intervening is, rather than taking a cognitive or behavioural approach, to take a psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach has the advantage of helping us answer questions such as ‘What are the underlying reasons for the child’s negative behaviour?’ ; ‘What is the child unconsciously trying to communicate through his/her behaviour?’ ; ‘What does the child’s behaviour mean?’ and ‘Why is the child behaving in this way at this particular time?’

Unfortunately, many families wish to avoid taking the psychodynamic approach due to a fear of the emotional pain and guilt digging into and exposing, the deeper reasons for the child’s behaviour is likely to entail (in connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled: Family Secrets And The Damage They Do).

Psychodynamic Counselling

Psychodynamic counselling is predicated upon the notion that how our mind works as an adult is strongly influenced by our early life experiences. The psychodynamic therapist helps the client to understand unconscious forces created by childhood experiences that may be adversely affecting his/her behaviour and interpretation of the world in the present. For example, suppressed anger towards a parent stemming from childhood may be connected to the client’s generalized feelings of aggression towards others in his/her present, adult life.

By resolving previously hidden, unconscious conflicts relating to childhood and bringing exposing them to the revealing light of consciousness, the psychodynamic therapist is able to, through making suggestions about, and offering interpretations of, the client’s present behaviours, increase his/her level of self-awareness and insight into the reasons for these current behaviours.. This increased level of insight and self-awareness is intended to facilitate the client’s ability to behave is different, more positive and beneficial ways both in relation to himself and to others.

You may also be interested in reading my related articles:


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

How Childhood Trauma Can Physically Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed)

The Irrefutable Link Between Borderline Personality Disorder And Childhood Trauma

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

David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website,, for which he exclusively writes articles. He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and  How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed). He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith’s College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance. This site has been created for educational purposes only.

Leave a Comment

Post Navigation

Follow by Email