The impact of abuse and trauma on the functioning and development of a child can be pervasive and wide ranging. These changes may occur slowly over time or suddenly, but most importantly they are noted to be a change from the usual behaviour or functioning of the child. These may include;

‘Frozen’ development or developmental regression

Children may become stuck in the developmental stage at which they experienced their abuse. Alternatively they may regress and be unable to complete previously achieved developmental activities (i.e. toileting, self soothing). Chronological age is not as important in children who have experienced abuse and trauma.

Emotional and psychological impacts

A range of emotional and psychological problems and disorders may be observed in children who have experienced abuse and trauma. This may include:

  • Poor self-esteem and self-worth
  • Self-blaming (for their abuse and everyday events)
  • BIG feelings (e.g. anger, fear, sadness, shame)
  • Dissociation
  • Somatic complaints (e.g. headaches, stomach aches)
  • Increased incidence of formal psychological disorders (e.g. Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Educational impacts

The educational impacts of abuse and trauma can be many and varied. These may include;

  • Truancy
  • School failure and low academic performance
  • Poor peer relations (e.g. Bullying and aggression)Poor attention and concentration

Behavioral impacts

Children who experience abuse and trauma often experience behavioural deterioration. These may include both internalizing and externalizing behaviours such as;

  • Enuresis/ Encopresis
  • Aggression and violence
  • Non compliance
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide attempts
  • Sexualised behaviours
  • Sexual promiscuity



Contact Us

Contact Details

Phone Number
9391 1900


George Jones Child Advocacy Centre
2 Wungong Road (Corner Church Ave)
Armadale WA 6112

Physical impacts

Physical impacts of abuse and trauma tend to be more noticeable than other forms of impact. These may include;

  • Immunological dysfunction
  • Dysregulated cortisol levels
  • Hospitalisation
  • Infectious disease
  • Physical injury
  • Failure to develop/thrive

Cognitive or neural impacts

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that trauma has a powerful influence on the development of the brain and ways of thinking. These can include;

  • Cognitive distortions (e.g. I am bad, it’s my fault, the world is a dangerous place)
  • Changes to the structure of the brain
  • Change to the synaptic connections within the brain