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Complex trauma: a developmental perspective

The severity and complexity of long-term childhood abuse and neglect can only be grasped with an all-encompassing understanding of a child's psychological development, attachment system, and social milieu. As a result of not learning how to control and manage physiological arousal, the already severe problems associated with chronic physio- logical arousal become even more difficult to handle.

Mastering one's feelings and emotions is a cornerstone of maturation. Affect regulation, as well as accessing, modulating, and using emotions, are learned primarily within the framework of attachment relationships (Fonagy et al., 2002; Schore, 2003). For optimal psychological and physiological growth, a kid needs stable bonding. A developmental lesson that is frequently negatively impacted by childhood abuse and neglect is learning to soothe and calm high emotional states.

Parents have the responsibility of protecting their children from harm and helping them learn to cope with negative experiences. Children develop crucial capabilities when they are raised in stable, predictable environments where they are taught to cope with a wide range of emotional and mental challenges. A person's self-capacities are the resources inside them that enable them to successfully navigate their internal environments and preserve a consistent and secure identity (McCann & Pearlman, 1990).

Self-capacities of identification, boundary awareness, and emotion control are considered crucial to the individual's ability to deal with traumatic experiences (Briere, 1996). Sensitive and responsive parenting is necessary for the kid to develop well-regulated affect and a stable sense of self (meaning that he or she cannot regulate the intensity of feelings or problem-solve ways to manage them).

According to Maté (2008), a child's ability to cope with psychological and physiological stress is based only on the quality of her connection with her parent. Infants are born without the developmental machinery necessary to control their own stress response. We develop this skill through time, or we don't, depending on the quality of our connections with our primary caregivers as children.

Having no one to turn to in times of emotional crisis is very difficult for children who have been neglected or mistreated. Thus, kids do not pick up any skills related to problem-solving or self-soothing in an unintentional manner. They can't take the emotional toll it's taking on them anymore. This indicates that a child who experiences trauma at a young age is less able to control or cope with strong states of anxiety, agitation, and physiological arousal. To rephrase, the trauma survivor is more emotionally vulnerable and less able to deal with that vulnerability.


Mimi Rothschild

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder and CEO of the Global Grief Institute which provides Certification training programs forGrief Coach, Trauma Coach, End of Life Coach, and Children's Grief Coach. She is a survivor who has buried 3 of her children and her husband of 33 years. She is available for speaking engagements and comments to the press on any issue surrounding thriving after catastrophic loss. MEDIA INQUIRIES:

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