What is Childhood Trauma?
Childhood trauma is experiencing a traumatic event in your childhood. Traumatic experiences cause strong emotional and physical reactions in individuals that are affected. Witnessing and experiencing a traumatic event especially at a young age affects a child's sense of safety and reliance on their attachment figures, which are primarily their parents/guardians. Unresolved childhood trauma, as mentioned in the past weeks, affects adulthood and how an individual relates to themselves and the world around them. The three traumas we will touch upon this week are neglect, emotional abuse, and physical abuse.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, parents/guardians that were unable to fulfill their child’s basic needs were participating in child neglect, which is a form of abuse. Parents that did not make time for their child, not supervising their child, not getting their child medical attention when they were hurt, and/or not emotionally providing for their child are some ways parents can neglect their children. The effects of neglect vary from individual to individual, but many individuals later develop attachment difficulties, emotional problems, behavioural problems, and even physical complications.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms. The parent/guardian will try to frighten, control, and isolate the child in order to exploit the power dynamic between them. They might start calling their child names, yell at them, pick fights in public and expose their secrets, be very dismissive of their child’s concerns, and tell their child that their hobbies are a waste of time and money. The parent/guardian will try to establish their power over the child in order to silence the child from seeking help from a trusted individual or even daring to speak. Other techniques they might use are threatening the child, monitoring them, digitally spying on them, and/or financially controlling them.
The worst part is that it often doesn’t stop here, in order to make the child feel absolutely powerless the parent/guardian will try to gaslight the individual to make them doubt their reality, deny their abuse, trivialize their abuse, and even blame the victim for their abusive behaviour. The effects of such abuse often result in depression, anxiety, apathy, or avoiding emotional closeness and intimacy.
Physical abuse is fairly straightforward in comparison to neglect and emotional abuse. The parent/guardian hits their child in order to cause bodily harm and injury. Sometimes it is disguised as corporal punishment in order to be justified. The effects of physical abuse often lead to substance abuse, depression, emotional dysregulation, and suicide ideation.
It’s important to remember that no matter who it is, you don’t deserve to be treated poorly nor abused, and it is not your fault. You are not to blame for the abusive actions of others.