The Effects of Developmental Trauma
Many people affected by complex trauma struggle to find ways to connect with others. Developmental trauma can manifest as a persistent sense of isolation or explosive episodes of anger and aggression. They may blame themselves or others for the things that happen to them and struggle to trust other people.
Understanding how and why traumatic experiences in childhood disrupt the natural development of the brain is fundamental to helping children recover from their trauma and lead healthy, productive lives. Trauma causes the overdevelopment of some pathways and the underdevelopment of others, and the interplay between these different pathways can contribute to the symptoms that are reported by survivors.
Understanding Developmental Trauma: Its Impact and Pathways to Healing
The brain develops at a very rapid rate in infancy and early childhood, creating new neural connections based on experience. Over time, certain pathways become strengthened while non-essential ones are shed in a process known as pruning. If the majority of these experiences are traumatic, some pathways will get more use than they should, while other pathways do not form at all, leading to impaired emotional and cognitive function.
Researchers have found that a person’s ACE score, or the number of adverse childhood experiences they endorse, is associated with a wide range of health and social outcomes including poor mental and physical health, high-risk behaviors, and increased risk of early death. These patterns are consistent with Bronfenbrenner’s biopsychosocial model, and the cross-diagnostic effects of developmental trauma are reflected in many different psychiatric disorders.