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What is childhood trauma?

The National Institute of Mental Health (USA) defines childhood trauma as; “The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasing mental and physical effects.” However with the right support it is possible to recover even from extreme early trauma.


Types of childhood trauma

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (Felliti and Anda, 1998) classifies childhood trauma in ten categories:

  • Abuse of child: emotional, physical, sexual abuse
  • Trauma in child's household environment: substance abuse, parental separation and/or divorce, mentally ill or suicidal household member, violence to mother, imprisoned household member
  • Neglect of child: abandonment, child's basic physical and/or emotional needs unmet

The ACE International Questionnaire (ACE-IQ) was designed by the World Health Organisation to measure ACEs in all countries. It includes additional categories such as peer violence. Questions cover family dysfunction; physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect by parents or caregivers; peer violence; witnessing community violence, and exposure to collective violence. 

Early childhood trauma generally refers to the traumatic experiences that occur to children aged 0-6. Young children may experience traumatic stress from interpersonal traumas, accidents, natural disasters, war and civil unrest as well as medical procedures or the sudden loss of a parent/caregiver.


Childhood trauma prevalence

National community-based surveys consistently identify the high prevalence of traumatic experiences. One study showed that nearly half of all children in the United States are exposed to at least one traumatic social or family experience (Bethell, Newacheck, Hawes & Halfon, 2014). 

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study investigated the association between childhood trauma and adult health in over 17,000 predominantly white, middle class Americans (Felliti et al., 1998). It showed that adverse childhood experiences are vastly more common than recognized or acknowledged and that they have a powerful effect on adult health a half-century later (Felliti, 2002). In the ten categories of childhood maltreatment identified trauma was found to be common: 29.5% of respondents reported parental substance use; 27 % physical abuse; 24.7 % sexual abuse; 24.5 % parental separation or divorce; 23.3% household mental illness; 16.7% emotional neglect; 13.7% mother treated violently; 13.1 % emotional abuse; 9.2% physical neglect; and 5.2% an incarcerated household member (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).

Almost two-thirds of study participants reported at least one ACE category and more than one in five reported three or more.

Latest Articles

Members Revealed for National Redress Scheme by admin
on Monday, 19 December 2016.
Parents urged to hold children close as figures show childhood trauma leads to adult mental health issues by Lydia
on Monday, 7 November 2016.
Turnbull government announces massive compensation scheme for sex abuse victims by admin
on Monday, 10 October 2016.
Trauma and the Law by admin
on Wednesday, 5 October 2016.
Survivor Workshops by Kate
on Wednesday, 7 September 2016.

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Testimonials

“Blue Knot Foundation has a key role to play in the building of community capacity in care provision to those who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma in any environment.”

NIALL MULLIGAN Manager, Lifeline Northern Rivers

“I think Blue Knot Foundation is a fantastic support organisation for people who have experienced childhood trauma/abuse, for their families/close friends and for professionals who would like to learn how to more effectively work with these people.”

Psychologist Melbourne

“It's such a beautiful thing that you are doing. Helping people to get through this.”

ANONYMOUS

“It was only last September when I discovered the Blue Knot Foundation website and I will never forget the feeling of support and empathy that I received when I finally made the first phone call to Blue Knot Helpline, which was also the first time I had ever spoken about my abuse.”

STEVEN

"At last there is some sound education and empathetic support for individuals and partners impacted by such gross boundary violations.”

TAMARA

Contact Us

Phone: 02 8920 3611
Email: admin@blueknot.org.au
PO Box 597 Milsons Point NSW 1565
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST

Blue Knot Helpline
Phone: 1300 657 380
Email: helpline@blueknot.org.au 
Hours: Mon-Sun, 9am-5pm AEST

For media comment, please contact:
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM
0425 812 197 or ckezelman@blueknot.org.au

For media enquiries, please contact: 
Christine Kardashian
0416 005 703 or 02 9492 1007 or christine@launchgroup.com.au