How does early childhood trauma develops?

You have a difficult start in life: Premature babies, children with heart defects or other disabilities experience stressful situations in the first few minutes, days and weeks of life. Even before they get the chance to know the everyday life, they experience shortness of breath, pain and medical procedures.

It's noisy, the lights are glaring, machines are beeping, and the mood environment is tense. Those who begin their lifes in the intensive care units experience an average of 766 invasive treatments before they are allowed to go home with their parents for the first time. This is just as stressful for the parents as it is for the little ones themselves.

In order to protect themselves, there is a protective mechanism in the child's psyche for such exceptional situations: the little patient withdraws emotionally. But even after they leave the hospital, babies have a hard time feeling safe and letting their shields down.

Some children manifest their emotional pressure by screaming and crying. Others react passively to their trauma: they are calm and withdrawn - sometimes even for months. About 13% of the infants treated in intensive care units develop a traumatic disorder during the first year of life. 1 Researchers have also identified changes in the nervous system in preterm infants. This shows that even the youngest babies experience their environment intensively and remember it.


How do I recognize early childhood trauma?

There are some baby behaviors that can indicate the presence of trauma. These include the next five points but all of them have to be present or be equally pronounced.

  1. Does your baby have little muscle tone?
  2. Does your infant have a low, weak voice and doesn't express much?
  3. His/Her needs are not expressed or only in a very superficially way?
  4. Is your infant nervous/jumpy?
  5. Does your baby frequently avoid eye contact?
  6. Is your infant often passive and difficult to engage in play?

How is early childhood trauma treated?

In a first step, we get to know you and your child during our consultation hours. We take a lot of time to...

  • ...to talk to you in a relaxed atmosphere
  • …. to play with your child.
  • ...to observe your child.
  • … to see how and if your child has coped with his negative experiences.

In many cases, no therapy is required. Because not every child who is very calm or who has experienced intensive medical treatment is traumatized.

If therapy is necessary, we are by your side with our therapy concept specially developed for traumatized infants and children.


Find out more about the framework of our therapy


1 Faugli et al., 2009; Wilken & Bartmann, 2014


Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash

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