What is Complex Trauma?

Complex Trauma** or Complex PTSD refers to the cumulative toll that experiences such as neglect, emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, persistently unsafe situations, or attachment disruptions take on children. The key idea we have been learning over the past 15 years is that trauma, particularly in early childhood, affects the developing brain and can result in a range of social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties which are hard for parents and caregivers to manage.

“The term complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure. These events are severe and pervasive, such as abuse or profound neglect. They usually begin early in life and can disrupt many aspects of the child’s development and the very formation of a self. Since they often occur in the context of the child’s relationship with a caregiver, they interfere with the child’s ability to form a secure attachment bond. Many aspects of a child’s healthy physical and mental development rely on this primary source of safety and stability. “ – National Child Traumatic Stress Network


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