Infants: The Impact of Trauma on Development


This level offers information about the impact of trauma on the four aspects of development identified in Step 1.

At Step 3 you will find information about trainings and tools designed to help overcome the impact of trauma on both youth and caregivers.

 

Physical: Effects of Trauma

Stress resulting from trauma in the earliest years of life can have a profoundly negative effect on physical development. In the absence of consistent and loving caregiving infants simply may not grow at an expectable rate and, at the extreme, be diagnosed as suffering from “failure to thrive.” As a result, they may fail to develop the muscle strength needed for gross and fine motor development, slowing the process of their learning to crawl, walk, run or hold a spoon or crayon. If stress hormones remain high over extended periods the elevated levels may impair healthy neurological development, resulting in disorganized brain structures and inefficient processing. Clearly, if the foundation laid in this period is not strong, it will have a lasting impact on all future growth and development. Learn More

Cognitive: Effects of Trauma

Stress resulting from trauma in the earliest years of life can have a profoundly negative effect on physical development. In the absence of consistent and loving caregiving infants simply may not grow at an expectable rate and, at the extreme, be diagnosed as suffering from “failure to thrive.” As a result, they may fail to develop the muscle strength needed for gross and fine motor development, slowing the process of their learning to crawl, walk, run or hold a spoon or crayon. If stress hormones remain high over extended periods the elevated levels may impair healthy neurological development, resulting in disorganized brain structures and inefficient processing. Clearly, if the foundation laid in this period is not strong, it will have a lasting impact on all future growth and development. Learn More

Social: Effects of Trauma

Infants who are traumatized by inadequate or harmful care will begin life without a foundation of trust in relationships, leaving them fearful. They may turn away from offers of help from adults and be unwilling to reach out for care as they get older. When infants turn away from offers of comfort or soothing, caregivers may feel that they aren’t really needed and fail to continue to try to play with or comfort the baby, whose sense that adults really can’t be helpful is confirmed. Thus is laid the groundwork for impaired social relationships. The importance of the earliest relationships with caregivers cannot be overstated; they are simply fundamental to healthy development. Learn More

Emotional: Effects of Trauma

Insecure attachments arise when caregivers are unresponsive to an infant’s needs or when they respond in unpredictable ways. In response, babies stop sending signals or send disorganized messages because they don’t know which cry or look will get adults to give them what they need. Babies who are insecurely attached may be both clingy and simultaneously inconsolable. They may refuse to make eye contact. Some may tense when approached by adults, while others may be limp and unresponsive to overtures. Children learn to soothe themselves by being soothed by another. Babies who are not comforted by caring adults are left to rely on primitive ways of calming themselves—by finger-sucking, or head-banging, for example—carrying this behavior with them into childhood. Learn More

Step 3: Trainings & Tools »