Trauma in Children: Review of the Impact
Trauma, which is defined as a condition defined by long-term adverse emotional, behavioral or cognitive changes, can interfere with children’s ability to achieve their educational and social goals, resulting in problems in school and in the home. Interrupted sleep patterns, stress and suicidal feelings make for a volatile environment for children. Consequently, issues like trauma, which are so powerful and long-lasting, can negatively affect a child’s academic and social growth. How can doctors help families understand the impact that stress can have on their child’s health and well-being?
Impact of Stress on Children’s Health and Academic Success
Children who consistently and severely experience stress have many physical and emotional issues that lead to chronic health problems and depression. These health problems may begin as early as their first day of school and continue throughout their childhood.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family in Armenia, around 48 percent of the Armenian population experiences significant psychological and behavioral issues in their childhood due to the impact of high levels of stress. Currently, they believe that at least 10 percent of children will experience chronic health problems as a result of high levels of stress in their childhood. Additionally, health professionals in Armenia believe that about 20 percent of adults have depressive or anxiety disorders.
Impact of Trauma on Childhood Stress and Mental Health
Trauma, which can impact a child’s ability to function in school, household and home, can be extremely detrimental to a child’s health and well-being. Behavioral problems, including aggression, violence, neglect and issues with feeling stress, increases children’s risk of future health and psychiatric problems.
Dr. Benjamin Malik, New York City Board of Health and Mental Health’s acting director and assistant commissioner, states that traumatic stress can lead to emotional and behavioral problems in children, and that it could be used as a predictive tool for mental health disorders. His research group is currently developing a program to collect data and provide researchers with data to determine the effect of childhood trauma on children’s emotional health.
Are Trauma Interventions Worth While?
Studies have shown that even the most effective intervention programs are unlikely to work if a child’s mental health deteriorates before the treatment begins. Therefore, healthy mental health routines should begin before traumatic stress occurs. Studies have found that getting families into a positive mental state can help reduce the stress and help children rebuild their emotional resilience. Therefore, these types of programs should help children do better in school, help decrease their emotional anxiety and help them mend relationships in the home.
Other Evidence-Based Programs
Beyond the traditional services such as counseling and mental health treatment that parents can receive, there are other ways parents can combat childhood trauma and help their children recover from traumatic experiences.