The Effects of Childhood Trauma on Adolescence

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Ruhr Cava, Michal
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While traumatic experiences can strike at any point in one's life, those occurring in childhood are correlated with increased challenges later in life (Toof et al., 2020). Domestic abuse and neglect result in attachment wounds that ultimately affect its victims' relationship not only with their caregivers, but with peers, teachers, and romantic partners (Lawson & Quinn, 2013). Extreme stressors, traumatic events, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have far-reaching effects on a child's neurobiological development and, therefore, their cognitive, mental, and social-emotional development (Toof et al., 2020). Being in a constant state of stress, as many trauma-affected youths are, triggers their vagal pathways – their nervous system – putting their bodies in a constant state of alert (Geller & Porges, 2014). Traumatized children are more likely to engage in substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide, and develop PTSD (Anda et al., 2006). They may lack self-regulation capabilities and the ability to forge and maintain healthy relationships with others. Engaging with students such as these can be challenging. These children desire consistent, safe, and nurturing relationships but often lack the ability to connect with others in that regard (Dods, 2013). This capstone explores the role of middle school teachers and counsellors in addressing the cognitive and social-emotional needs of its trauma-surviving students. Recommendations include establishing a sense of safety and trust through relationship-building, as this can go a long way toward laying a foundation of healing for these learners. Additionally, providing a Response to Intervention model of service also allows school counsellors to support the entire school, including its trauma-affected population.
trauma , PTSD , attachment , neurobiological development , polyvagal theory , RTI