A brief introduction to Childhood Trauma

Child hood

Today’s Guest blogger is someone I have known a long time.I have watched her grow from a crazy teen to a epic young women (still crazy though). She has worked so hard in Uni because she wants to make a difference in the world. I asked her to write about something that she feel strongly about and she has chosen the above subject. Just another one to the list of how she makes me proud. She is not my family by blood (yet) but is my family by love. 

May I introduce to you one of my Queens, Gabriela x
My mind went blank when I was asked to write a blog entry for Out of the Shadows. I didn’t know what to write about. But after a few days of thinking I realised I should write about what I’m most passionate about: Child Psychology.

During my time at university I realised how interested I am in the importance of the early years of life on the brain. Back in the day, people used to think that “children are strong”, “children can overcome anything”. Yet, this is not the case. Children are the most vulnerable. Our brain is most malleable during infancy and it is the experiences during the first few years of life that shape the way we’ll behave later on. I’ve read extensively about this, and for anyone interested I cannot recommend Dr. Bruce Perry’s books enough. They have incredible insight on the matter. If not, Usha Goswami’s “Child Psychology: A very short introduction” is amazing too. And brief.

But anyway, brain plasticity occurs thanks to neural connections. Any type of stimuli will make neurons fire and form connections. The more frequently the same stimuli are received, the more fortified these connections become. Now, if a baby is conceived in a happy, safe family, the baby is likely to receive warm, nurturing and positive responses from his parents/mother/main carer (who may be a grandmother, a nanny, etc). These are the key factors needed for a child to achieve optimal development. Yet, if a baby grows up in a dysfunctional family, or in a “broken home”, this can have detrimental social, cognitive and academic consequences for the baby in the long-term. The more loved a baby is – in the right way, the better his cognitive development will be during the first two years of life.

Even before birth, babies are active learners, taking in and assimilating information around them. Think about it. Babies are able to recognise their mother’s voice and the music that has been played as they are still in the womb. As important as genetics (biology) are, a baby’s environment is even more critical as it can help or worsen biological conditions. If a baby has been in the womb of a mother who smokes, or drinks, or takes drugs, this will have harmful consequences. Even when they are not physical, therefore invisible, believe me, they are not. A good pre-natal (before birth) environment is important. Think about it as “getting the bases (of life) right”. If a baby is in the womb and the mother has smoked, etc, this might affect the baby’s cognitive ability even before he’s born.

Now, on top of all that, let’s think about family interactions. During the first years of life, before going to school, a child’s world revolves around his family and their interactions. Babies and toddlers interact with the world mostly by imitating what they see others do. If the family’s interactions are hostile and aggressive, this is likely to promote aggression in the child himself.

It has been studied that toddlers show a sense moral values, displaying a sense of fairness, and displeasure in hurting others. Yet, you can see how in the wrong environment this can change. This happens because children in abusive/hostile families do not know anything else, therefore, their learning environment – their home, becomes the norm. Abuse, in any type of way (physical, sexual, emotional or neglect) will affect children negatively, inhibiting their cognitive abilities, which will affect their social and academic skills. Human beings are predisposed to search for warm connections, love and social closeness. Instinctively, this is to avoid isolation and to prolong the species. But if children undergo any type of child abuse during their early years, their behaviour will be marked and shaped by it. This is because what I previously mentioned: neural connections. If a kid touches something hot and it burns him, he will learn after one or two times that this happens. The same occurs with interactions with those who harm you. If talking to “dad” when he’s hitting “mom” will result in getting a beating, the kid is likely to stop intervening. No matter how “unfair” the situation is. Simultaneously, the child might stop searching for love and affection.

With this blog entry, I just wanted to show the importance of the early years of life of babies. This is not even half of everything that I could talk about, but it is a mini introduction. Hope it’s an interesting read!

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