Early childhood trauma

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Early childhood trauma refers to adversity experienced in early childhood. This is the most critical developmental period in human life. Adversity that causes toxic stress and/or trauma experienced in early childhood can lead to a variety of problems in later life, in a critical developmental period in a child’s life spanning from conception to the age of five. Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).[1] New research shows that even witnessing traumatic events can impact the physical development of a child’s brain — potentially leading to lifelong health and social issues.

Development of psychological resilience is believed to significantly reduce the effects of a childhood trauma on a child’s development.[2][3][4] Early childhood adversity alters the peripheral and central immune system and increases the sensitivity of the body's immune response to cocaine in adulthood.[5]


  1. ^ "Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  2. ^ "Resilience". Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Retrieved 2017-03-14.
  3. ^ Werner, Emmy E. "What can we learn about resilience from large-scale longitudinal studies?" Handbook of resilience in children. Springer US, 2013. 87-102.
  4. ^ Haggerty, Robert J., Norman Garmezy, Lonnie R. Sherrod, and Michael Rutter. Stress, risk, and resilience in children and adolescents: Processes, mechanisms, and interventions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  5. ^ "Early childhood adversity increases sensitivity of the body's immune response to cocaine". News-Medical.net. 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2018-07-18.