In this review article, one of the foremost experts in PTSD research, Bessel van der Kolk, explores PTSD in children. The attachment bond is examined with an emphasis on stress regulation and neglect.
Attention is paid to the psychopathology of trauma, detailing how while the neuroanatomic organization of the brain is determined by genetics to a large extent, the limbic system and frontal lobes help to form a child’s perceptions of experience.
In trauma, children lose the ability to self-regulate which can have lasting effects on their brains as they continue to develop into adults.
The effects on learning and memory in traumatized children is prevalent, as traumatized children tend to be hypervigilant and excessively sensitive to stimuli which non-traumatized children can more effectively filter out in order to engage in processes of learning and memory consolidation. This can lead to an inability to appropriately filter social cues which can result in social problems. Physical ailments are also more common in traumatized children, as is a 300% greater chance than nonabused peers to engage in drug abuse, self-harm, and aggression and violence against others.
The review includes a detailed description of the HPA axis, which is responsible for the body’s stress response system. Disruption to this axis results in dysregulation, which means an inability to regulate emotional responses. Decreased hemispheric lateralization and prefrontal cortex disturbances are also seen in traumatized infants and children. Treatments are also discussed with an emphasis on body awareness as beneficial.