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Monday, March 25, 2013

Apparently not all trauma is created equal

I am fascinated by a new study just published by Hickman et al., in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. As the abstract notes, the research set out to look at how lifetime vioklence exposure is realted to a set of negative symtpoms in children. Those included child internalizing and externalizing behavior, child trauma symptoms and parenting stress. In essence, these are core questions in child protection. A high number of children involved with CPS have been exposed to various forms of trauma. The research had a good sample size meaning that the data was robust. The children were under 5 years of age.

The research spoke about poly-violence as being more dangerous in its long term effects. They defined this as being exposure to multiple violence categories. Intuitively, this makes sense. If there are few, if any, safe environments in your life, it is quite hard to ever settle down. The alarm system of the body is heightened on a continuous basis. Such individuals will tend towards hypersensitivity and hyper alertness.

As the researchers note on p. 1339 of their article. "...exposure to violence has been linked in numerous studies to various developmental and mental health consequences...."

A child who has been exposed to a single form of violence may have resiliency options elsewhere in their lives. In other words, they may have safe havens. One exception seems to be sexual abuse which has a special meaning which was the least common (likely the most damaging) whereas witnessing violence was the most common.

Discussions about broad safety in our society need to consider this type of research. It is perhaps quite relevant given the discussions in the USA about gun violence which can be pervasive in some areas and the high profile issues of rape and the safety of women in India. Perhaps what we have not been focusing on is the creation of true safety for people.


Hickman, L.J., Jaycox, L.H., Setodji, C.M., Kofner, A., Schilt, D. & Harris, R. (2013). How much does "How much" matter? Assessing the relationship between children's lifetime exposure to violence and trauma symptoms, behaviour problems and parenting stress. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28 (6), 1338-1362. 

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