Impact of trauma on children

Roy Lubit, Deborah Rovine, Lea Defrancisci, Spencer Eth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Millions of children are affected by physical and sexual abuse, natural and technological disasters, transportation accidents, invasive medical procedures, exposure to community violence, violence in the home, assault, and terror. ism. Unfortunately, the emotional impact of exposure to trauma on children is often unappreciated and therefore untreated, and yet the impact of exposures to disaster and violence is profound and long-lasting. This article first briefly discusses the epidemiology of trauma in children, and then reviews the psychiatric and neurodevelopmental impact of trauma on children as well as the effects of trauma on children's emotional development. Trauma in chil. dren can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as to a variety of other psychiatric disorders, including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse in adult survivors of trauma. Research has found that early exposure to stress and trauma causes physical effects on neurodevelopment which may lead to changes in the individual's long-term response to stress and vulnerability to psychiatric disorders. Exposure to trauma also affects children's ability to regulate, identify, and express emotions, and may have a negative effect on the individual's core identity and ability to relate to others. The authors also discuss what has been learned, based on recent experiences such as the World Trade Center catastrophe, about the role of television viewing in increasing the effects of traumatic events. The last section of the article provides guidance concerning the identification and clinical treatment of children and adolescents who are having emotional problems as a result of exposure to trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-138
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Children
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Depression
  • Natural disasters
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Physical abuse
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sexual abuse
  • Television viewing
  • Terrorism
  • Trauma
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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