What is Developmental Trauma (DT)?
Developmental Trauma (also sometimes referred to as Complex Trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)), is: an exposure to chronic stress and/or trauma during the developmental years of childhood. The parent or guardian is the cause of the trauma or does not aid in helping to reduce the stress. While experiences outside of the home can be very traumatic (e.g. war, bullying, racism), DT focuses on experiences that occur inside the home.
Researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have identified the below experiences which often contribute to DT.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Effects of Developmental Trauma
Research on the topic is relatively new, but vast. An ongoing study – The Adverse Childhood Experience Study – assigns adults an ACE score (Find your ACE score here) based on DT and then explores correlations between their score and mental and physical health. Not surprisingly for mental health professionals in the field, the study suggests that the higher the score, the more negative physical and mental impact experienced by the subject.
This study, along with many others, also suggest that DT can alter brain structures related to memory, attention, emotion regulation and communication.
Why Seek Treatment?
We used to believe that the brain impenetrable, and we could not change or repair it. However, research now shows that through neuroplasticity the brain can reorganize and form new neural networks. Therapy can help with this! A therapist can help discover which brain areas are most likely underdeveloped (or affected by DT) and then develop a therapy plan to begin rehabilitation.
How Your Best Self Therapy Can Help
Speaking of brains … children’s brains are rapidly developing at all times. Parents and therapists have opportunities during the formative childhood years to (re)build neuron networks at an early age. This helps prepare affected children for a higher quality of life, which includes more productive adaptability and conflict resolution skills for their future life.