Children and Trauma

Tips for Mental Health Professionals from the APA

In their roles as clinicians, scientists, teachers, and community members, mental health professionals can make a difference in the way our society responds to child trauma. Because child trauma exposure is so pervasive, it is important for all mental health professionals to have basic knowledge of its nature, effects, and appropriate initial responses.

Get The Facts:

Many children in the U.S. are exposed to traumatic life events

  • About half experience a traumatic event (abuse, violence, terrorism, disaster, traumatic loss)
  • Many experience more than one such event
  • Many live with chronic trauma, with no time for healing between events
Almost all children experience acute distress immediately after exposure to a traumatic life event
  • Most return to prior levels of functioning with time and support from family and trusted adults
  • A substantial minority develop ongoing distress that may warrant clinical attention
  • Reactions vary with age, maturity, and exposure to chronic trauma
  • Children exposed to chronic and pervasive trauma are especially vulnerable to the impact of subsequent trauma
Parents and families are also affected, and their responses affect how children react to trauma
  • Family members can react differently to the same event
  • Developmental level and culture affect child perceptions of trauma, resources for coping, and family interactions
Most children with persistent trauma-related distress do not receive psychological treatment
  • Few trauma-exposed children with symptoms that warrant clinical attention receive services
  • Fewer still receive treatments that can be effective, such as cognitive–behavioral therapy

For more information  about Children and Trauma please visit the American Psychological Association 

American Psychological Association , (2014). Retrieved from website:

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