TRAUMAS DEVELOPED AND TRANSMITTED in the family have particularly profound effects when they involve a dependent infant or child (Isobel et al., 2019). Understanding the pathways between childhood trauma and negative mental health consequences in adulthood, as well as the interplay between the early traumatic experiences and the family environment in childhood can help mental health professionals to provide effective trauma-informed care.
The role of family and early childhood in C-PTSD
PTSD is usually preceded by one or more traumatic events (such as rape, war, natural disaster, or a car accident). Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) is more strongly associated with prolonged and repeated exposure to different types of traumatic experiences in childhood (Ocean, 2020). For the person suffering from C-PTSD, the trauma (such as repeated incidents of domestic abuse or violence) is most often relational (Karatzias et al., 2017).
Typically, C-PTSD in an adult is a result of traumatic interactions experienced during critical developmental stages and that occurred between the child and a parent or other caregiver. As a child grows, they develop coping skills for responding to danger by learning and adapting in a process with trusted family members. When the parent or caregiver, who should be a reliable source of affection and support, is the source of the danger, this developmental process is profoundly disrupted. [Continue…]