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Trauma: Impact on the Developing Mind and Brain

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A child's brain development is profoundly influenced by his or her experience. Adverse experiences such as abuse, neglect or exposure to violence can shape the organization of the brain, which, in turn, influences the capacity of the brain to help a child think, feel and behave.

Impact of Trauma on Development

The impact of any event is likely to be most profound on the systems in the brain, which are most rapidly developing. Therefore, depending upon the specific time in development that the traumatic event takes place, as well as the specific nature of adverse experience, a range of problems can arise, from delayed development to impulsivity to severe emotional problems. When the exposure to violence is compounded by the loss of protection from the child's primary caregivers, brain development becomes particularly vulnerable and the spectrum of symptoms exhibited expand.

Understanding the origins of these problems and how they can be identified and addressed is one of the major challenges for professionals working with traumatized children.

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