Pediatric Annals

CME Article 

The Impact of Trauma: A Developmental Framework for Infancy and Early Childhood

Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD; Kathleen Knorr, LICSW

  • Pediatric Annals. 2007;36(4)
  • Posted April 1, 2007

Abstract

There is a steady accumulation of research and clinical evidence documenting the effect of traumatic events on the development of infants and young children. Trauma involves the impact of extreme physical or psychological stressors that overwhelm a child’s ability to cope. Traumatic events threaten serious injury, death, or the psychological integrity of a child or another person. Young children are frequently exposed to a range of traumatic stressors, including hurricanes, near drownings, car accidents, and shootings, as well as physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, and terrorism. Because young children have limited coping skills, they are particularly at risk for negative outcomes associated with traumatic events.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, is Irving B. Harris Professor of Infant Mental Health, Vice Chair for Academic Affairs, University of California at San Francisco Department of Psychiatry, and Director, Child Trauma Research Project San Francisco General Hospital. Kathleen Knorr, LICSW, is with Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Washington.

Address correspondence to: Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, CTRP SFGH, 1001 Potrero Avenue, Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA 94110; or fax: 415-206-5328.

The authors disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe the functions of attachment and exploration as primary motivations in early childhood development.
  2. Describe three common behaviors young children manifest following traumatic stress.
  3. List, in order, the four basic steps pediatricians can take to help treat traumatic stress in children.

Abstract

There is a steady accumulation of research and clinical evidence documenting the effect of traumatic events on the development of infants and young children. Trauma involves the impact of extreme physical or psychological stressors that overwhelm a child’s ability to cope. Traumatic events threaten serious injury, death, or the psychological integrity of a child or another person. Young children are frequently exposed to a range of traumatic stressors, including hurricanes, near drownings, car accidents, and shootings, as well as physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, and terrorism. Because young children have limited coping skills, they are particularly at risk for negative outcomes associated with traumatic events.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, is Irving B. Harris Professor of Infant Mental Health, Vice Chair for Academic Affairs, University of California at San Francisco Department of Psychiatry, and Director, Child Trauma Research Project San Francisco General Hospital. Kathleen Knorr, LICSW, is with Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Washington.

Address correspondence to: Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, CTRP SFGH, 1001 Potrero Avenue, Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA 94110; or fax: 415-206-5328.

The authors disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe the functions of attachment and exploration as primary motivations in early childhood development.
  2. Describe three common behaviors young children manifest following traumatic stress.
  3. List, in order, the four basic steps pediatricians can take to help treat traumatic stress in children.

There is a steady accumulation of research and clinical evidence documenting the effect of traumatic events on the development of infants and young children. Trauma involves the impact of extreme physical or psychological stressors that overwhelm a child’s ability to cope. Traumatic events threaten serious injury, death, or the psychological integrity of a child or another person. Young children are frequently exposed to a range of traumatic stressors, including hurricanes, near drownings, car accidents, and shootings, as well as physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, and terrorism. Because young children have limited coping skills, they are particularly at risk for negative outcomes associated with traumatic events.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, is Irving B. Harris Professor of Infant Mental Health, Vice Chair for Academic Affairs, University of California at San Francisco Department of Psychiatry, and Director, Child Trauma Research Project San Francisco General Hospital. Kathleen Knorr, LICSW, is with Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Washington.

Address correspondence to: Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, CTRP SFGH, 1001 Potrero Avenue, Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA 94110; or fax: 415-206-5328.

The authors disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe the functions of attachment and exploration as primary motivations in early childhood development.
  2. Describe three common behaviors young children manifest following traumatic stress.
  3. List, in order, the four basic steps pediatricians can take to help treat traumatic stress in children.

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