The Impact of Childhood Trauma
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Children who have experienced complex trauma often have difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing emotions, which can lead to their responses being unpredictable and/or explosive. Children who are exposed to complex trauma face numerous risks, including the risk of being abused and neglected. Children who are chronically exposed to trauma often have difficulty forming positive, healthy relationships, may over-respond or under respond to situations in their environment, learn to disassociate as a defense mechanism, form a negative view of the world around them and their own self-worth, and lack the ability to link consequences with their actions. Traumatic experiences in childhood have been linked to increased physical and mental health issues that can last into adulthood.

What Experiences Might Be Traumatic – Adverse Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future physical and mental health and opportunity. Early childhood experiences are an important public health issue. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

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As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes. To learn more about
the different types of trauma CLICK HERE.
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(1) National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, "Childhood Trauma and Its Effect on Healthy Development," July 2012 (http://sshs.promoteprevent.org/sites/default/files/trauma_brief_in_final.pdf)

(2) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.samhsa.gov/children/social_media_apr2011.asp)


When children show healthy development in spite of adversity, it is called resilience. Fostering resilience in young children requires strengthening the family, the community, as well as children’s own personal resources.  Children are dependent on others for their survival, and family, peers, schools, neighborhoods, and communities can provide resources that promote resilience. The quality of the systems and supports in a child’s life can greatly assist children’s resilient recovery. Resilience may be fostered in children who have a strong, positive relationship with a primary caregiver who acts to ensure safety and protection after a traumatic event.

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PCA Illinois' Effects of Childhood Trauma
  1. Trauma 101

  2. Addressing Secondary Trauma

  3. Poverty: Cycles of Risk

  4. Effective Engagement: The Key to Building Resilience in Youth and Families

  5. Building a Road to Resilience

  6. Adverse Childhood Experiences: How the Body Keeps the Score


The National Child Traumatic Stress Network


Adverse Childhood Experiences Study


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


Adverse Childhood Experiences


Protective Factors


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