Definition Of Childhood Trauma - Childhood Trauma Recovery %

Definition Of Childhood Trauma

The definition of childhood trauma, according to The National Institute Of Mental Health (USA), is as follows :

‘The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.

One way to help define childhood trauma is to split it into two categories, as shown below :


Interpersonal trauma refers to trauma that the child experiences as a result of harmful interactions with another person / other persons. Interpersonal trauma adversely affects the child most severely when the perpetrator of the harm (psychological and / or physical) done to the child is his / her primary carer / parent (due, not least, to thebetrayal and breech of trust involved, as well as the fact that the child is dependent upon this person to keep him / hersafe).

Interpersonal trauma can occur as a result of abuse (physical, sexual and / oremotional), living in a household in which there is domestic violenceor being affected by community violence (e.g. threatened and / or attacked by gangs), being displaced from one’s country and becoming a refugee (see my article entitled TYPES OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA) etc.

The child can also be traumatized by what his/her primary carers / parents should do for him/her but do NOT do, ; this is referred to as NEGLECT and can be PHYSICAL and / or EMOTIONAL.

A child may also be traumatized by living with a parent who is mentally ill,  having a parent in jail, having parents who are separated / divorced, and by having to be the parent’s caretaker / being parentified.

Having a parent who is an alcoholic or who has a personality disorder, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD)or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)    or  sadistic – narcissistic personality disorder.


Traumatic events that can occur during childhood include natural disasters, war and being displaced from one’s country and becoming a refugee. For more about traumatic events, see my previously published article : TYPES OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

A child may also suffer a medical trauma which will include both a traumatic event and, potentially, interpersonal trauma (medical trauma is described more fully in my previously published article entitled : TYPES OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA).

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

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