Research Paper on Childhood Trauma and Loss

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1543 Words
Date:  2022-03-15


Mental growth and development depend on psychological factors and environmental determinants. Severe trauma, abuse, and neglect have negative impacts on the development of children's brains. Behavior and attachment may also be affected by complex trauma. Physical abuse occurs typically in most parts of the world due to social and economic factors (Brodhagen & Wise, 2008). Physical abuse affects both mental and physical growth in children; therefore, changing their cognitive understanding. Psychological trauma occurs typically in children who have undergone physical abuse in their developmental stages. Evidence from literature sources has provided some common factors predisposing children to psychological trauma. Neglect contributed to the risks that cause trauma in children.

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In most cases, children are left by their parents; therefore, lacking parental care. Social and cultural practices also contribute to the risks of trauma. Economic factors like poverty have forced many children to look for employment to meet their necessities in life. The employers abuse these children; therefore, causing psychological trauma.

Effects of Trauma and Grief on children in their Developmental Stages

The impact of the traumatic events and grief varies with the age of the child and the developmental stage in which he/she is undergoing. Neglect causes malnutrition in small children, especially those under the age of ten years (Holmes, Yoon, Voith, Kobulsky & Steigerwald, 2015). Children depend mostly on their parents or caregivers; therefore, neglecting them causes both psychological and physical problems. Malnutrition may lead to delays in development, poor social skills, attention deficits, and emotional instability. Many psychologists have linked unstable neglect attachment in small children because most of the caregivers and parents fail to provide a conducive environment that supports the growth and development of their children. Malnutrition does not affect children in the adolescent stage because they do depend on parental care so much as compared to small children. Secondly, maltreatment like sexual abuse and harassment lowers self-esteem in children. Diminished self-esteem arises due to the weak attachment of children with parents and other adult people. Low self-esteem affects adolescent children because they have started to identify themselves with their friends and other people in society.

Other effects include intellectual and cognitive effects. Analysis of the literature sources and Evidence-based practice has shown that neglected and abused children experience delayed intellectual development, especially in the neurological center that controls verbal intelligence. Most of the physically abused children portray reduced cognitive and intellectual functioning. Intellectual and cognitive understanding of children determine their mental growth; therefore, affecting children throughout their developmental stages (Holmes et al., 2015). Reduced psychological wellbeing of the children affects their language skills, comprehension, and expression. Lastly, physical abuse results in negative behavioral consequences in children. These may include antisocial behaviors like aggression and isolation from other people. Maltreated children may become aggressive due to their past experiences; therefore, affecting their social wellbeing and interaction with other people in society.

Factors that Protect Children from Trauma and Help Build Resilience

The research on the effects of trauma on developmental stages of children has provided some factors that help in reducing the impacts of trauma (Lowe, 2016). First, the pro-social skills of the child are critical in positive adaptation to the challenges. The child's pro-social skills are related to four main domains that determine the nature of resilient development. The areas provided by the caregivers include assertion, self-control, cooperation, and responsibility. The pro-social skills help in developing good social behaviors in children and overcoming the negative impacts of physical abuse like aggression (Holmes et al., 2015). Lowe, 2016). Secondly, the child's internalizing well-being promotes resilience based on the ability to internalize the behavior developed after the trauma and mistreatment. Some of the behavioral problems to be internalized include physical problems, anxiety, depression, and withdrawal. Research studies have shown that caregivers emphasize internalizing the difficulties experienced by physically abused children in the attempt of developing resilience.

Thirdly, caregiver well-being determines the nature of adaptation developed by the mistreated children. The research applied three scales in analyzing the efficacy of the caregiver well-being in the prevention of impacts of trauma and grief on children. These scales included alcohol consumption, depression, and drug abuse. The analysis and evaluation of these determinants play an essential role in improving caregiver well-being because these scales have negative impacts on the mental performance of an individual. Heavy drinkers and social drug users frequently develop depression and slow mental performance; therefore, interfering with their abilities to provide quality care services to maltreated children (Samuels, 2011). The well-being of the caregivers is improved by eradicating these negative impacts. Lastly, control variables like age, gender, and racial group of a child determine the nature of adaptation be developed after the abuse. Based on ethnicity, it was identified that the children of the Whites developed resilience faster than as compared to those children from other races like Hispanics and Black Americans (Samuels, 2011). The Whites adapt quickly to the conditions because of the quality and appropriate treatments they receive as compared to the other ethnic groups.

Treatments and Interventions for Trauma and Loss in Children

It is pivotal to analyze the efficacy of the interventions and forms of therapeutic procedures applied in the prevention of the impacts of psychological trauma in children to promote positive living and their well-being. Counter-transference relates to the psychoanalytic theory because most victimized children transfer some of the unresolved issues to their relationship with their caregivers (Samuels, 2011). Caregivers should apply this intervention to promote their interaction and development of resilience. In most cases, counter-resilience lead to inappropriate relationship since it originates from negative experiences and attitudes developed earlier in life. To avoid the limitations of counter-transference, parents, professionals, teachers, and caregivers develop positive mindsets to understand the emotions, information, beliefs, and thought patterns of abused children. The information may trigger feelings of the caregiver and other therapists based on their past experiences. The previous challenges of the therapists promote their desires to rescue, care for, and nurture their clients. Counter-transference also guides the therapists in considering fundamental ethical concerns and values within professional boundaries; therefore, improving positive living.

Secondly, attachment promotes openness and emotional security in children. The abused children are attached to the immediate adults with the desire of nurturing and caring for the victimized children. In the early years of life, infants and small children develop an attachment with their mothers through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding creates a strong bond between the mother and the sucking infant (McFadyen & Kitson, 1996). The attachment created may persist for a lifetime, but some factors like stressors, strains, strange environments, and illness may interfere with the relationships. Attachment with adults promotes the emotional and social functioning of abused children because therapists provide care services based on their past experiences and professional skills. The attached caregivers and therapists provide strategic measures that apply to reduce the impacts of mistreatment and grief due to witnessed violence.

Thirdly, establish legislation for promoting the welfare of the children and eradicate psychological trauma and related consequences. The United States of America has passed legislation against child abuse within its territories. For example, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1998 ensures the permanent adoption of abused children. Permanency focuses on the welfare of the children as stipulated by the Administration on Children and Families Act. The laws aim at reducing the overcrowding of children in foster care. Research data have shown that there is a decrease in the number of children living in foster care facilities as compared to the years preceding the implementation of the legislation. The number of children in out-of-home care had reduced by 27% in 2010 as compared to 1998 (McFadyen & Kitson, 1996). Lastly, the treatment of children under psychological trauma and grief requires optimism for sufficient resilience. Dispositional optimism focuses on attaining positive outcomes regardless of the severity of the trauma on the child. The therapists apply dispositional intervention in the treatment of the abused children in achieving desired results despite the adversity of traumatic events.


Trauma and grief interfere with the mental and physical development of children. Psychological trauma occurs typically as a result of child abuse in most societies. Social, environmental, and economic factors predispose children to complex trauma and loss. Research and literature evidence has recommended the development of resilience in the prevention of the negative impacts of trauma on the child's development. The consequences of childhood trauma arising from neglect and mistreatment should be evaluated using a longitudinal developmental model that examines the duration, timing, nature of the effects, and their severities depending on the cultural settings.


Brodhagen, A., & Wise, D. (2008). Optimism as a Mediator between the Experience of Child Abuse, other Traumatic Events, and Distress. Journal of Family Violence, 23(6), 403-411. doi: 10.1007/s10896-008-9165-8

Holmes, M., Yoon, S., Voith, L., Kobulsky, J., & Steigerwald, S. (2015). Resilience in Physically Abused Children: Protective Factors for Aggression. Behavioral Sciences, 5(2), 176-189. doi: 10.3390/bs5020176.

Lowe, C. (2016). The Professional's Influence within the Client System: Exploring Counter-Transference and Adult Attachment within the Therapeutic Relationships with Children Experiencing Abuse and Their Caregivers. Journal of Social Work Practice, 30(1), 59-68., Vo. 30, No. 1, 59-68,

McFadyen, R. G., & Kitson, W. J. (1996). Language Comprehension and Expression among Adolescents who have Experienced Childhood Physical Abuse. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 37(5), 551-562.

Samuels, B. H. (2011). Introduction-Addressing Trauma to Promote Social and Emotional Well-Being: A Child Welfare Imperative. Child Welfare, 90(6), 19.

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