Childhood trauma has a profound impact on emotional, social, cognitive, behavioural and physical functioning (Perry et al, 1995). Developmental experiences determine the organisation and functioning of the mature brain. Adaptive responses to trauma include hyperarousal and dissociation. The developing brain internalises information in a use-dependent way so that the more a child is in these traumatic states the more they are likely to develop neuropsychiatric symptoms. When acute adaptive states persist, they become maladaptive traits. Adults interpret children through the distorted lens of their own beliefs and this is most destructive when the effect of trauma in infancy and childhood is minimised. It is an ‘ultimate irony’ that when humans are at their most vulnerable (in infancy and childhood), adults assume the most resilience.


Perry, B. D., Pollard, R. A., Blakley, T. L., Baker, W. L., & Vigilante, D. (1995). Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation, and “use-dependent” development of the brain: How “states” become “traits”. Infant Mental Health Journal, 16(4), 271-291. doi:10.1002/1097-0355(199524);2-b