As children, many people go through at least one of the various forms of trauma, affecting not only their development, but also their adult life. Childhood trauma is extremely common in this era as many children have the misfortune of being raised without sufficient love and attention or grow up exposed to things they should not be.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (2015), abuse is one of the most common form of childhood trauma. This may include physical abuse, verbal abuse, and mental abuse. Physical abuse can be categorized into two; sexual abuse, and non-sexual physical abuse. The World Health Organization (2016), has stated that one in four adults have been abused as children. Sexual abuse is known as any sexual act between an adult and a child including penetration, incest, rape, oral sex, sodomy, fondling, sexual exploitation of the child, exposure to sexual content, and invading the privacy of a child’s body. Non-sexual physical abuse is an injury purposely inflicted upon a child with physical aggression. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, is the use of words to insult or degrade a child. Lastly, mental abuse is behaving a certain way or giving off attitude that affects a child’s mental health and social development (insulting or belittling a child with not only words but by actions, which deteriorate a child’s emotional health).
First and foremost, trauma would typically have immediate effect on a child’s behavior, causing it to be disruptive. The child may become more disobedient, difficult, and out of control in general. This kind of behavior does not necessarily root from childhood trauma; however, it is a common reaction towards it. Such conduct often messes up the social settings they are in, causing chaos around them. At home, the child would attempt to steal the spotlight from siblings, if any, making it harder for parents to attend to the needs of their other children or work (Faraone, 2003). Besides this, trauma can affect a child’s mood too. As humans, it is only normal for us to experience wide ranges of emotions on a daily basis. Going through trauma, especially before reaching emotional maturity can cause children to reach irrational extremes of emotions like sadness, anger, jealousy, and so on. Unlike disruptive behavior, moodiness is harder to detect as children may not necessarily display how they feel at all times. Next, seeing as childhood trauma sticks with children for extended periods of time, fear and anxiety that said trauma may occur again would definitely be present. Some cry, get sick, or hyperventilate due to fear. Parents may take this as stubbornness, when in reality, the child is simply terrified. As stated by Faraone (2003), “Sometimes the child who refuses to go to bed on time is afraid of the dark, not disobedient” (p. 31). Another effect is impaired learning. Children never stop learning; however, when traumatic experiences occur as they develop, it becomes more difficult. Trauma disrupts their ability to focus, plan, analyze, and perform executive functions. Lastly, traumatized children may have abnormalities of development. This occurs when the usual sequence of growth in mental, emotional, social, and physical skills fail, causing the child to mature far slower than their peers.
In contrast, said experiences can also bring out effects that last well beyond childhood. In terms of mental and emotional reactions, trauma can affect the way an individual perceives his or herself, as well as the world around them. It could seem like nothing is as one thought it was, including themselves. Besides that, feelings of constant fear and helplessness may be induced as those who have endured repeated trauma would continue living in fear that it may happen again, and there is nothing they can do to stop it. Similar to that in immediate effects of childhood trauma, changes in behavior occur in the long-term too. Victims tend to become more distant and withdraw themselves from others. This avoidance could be due to trust issues but cannot be said for sure as it is very subjective.