Traumatic childhood events

Experiencing a hurricane, witnessing family abuse, the death of a loved one, a school shooting –  these are just some examples of traumatic events that can have a long-term negative impact on a child. How a child recovers from such adversity can determine their future success in school and in how they relate to family and friends.

Types of traumatic childhood events

Traumatic childhood events are experiences that compromise the safety and security of school-age children, ages 4 to 10. These traumatic events can be things like:

  • Community violence involving people outside of a child’s family (shooting, rape, robberies, etc.)
  • Complex traumas that begin early and are sustained for an extended period of time (abuse, neglect and domestic violence)
  • Isolated acts of abuse or neglect, which could include a lack of clothing, food and shelter or bouts of hitting, kicking or sexual abuse
  • Medical trauma resulting from a procedure or an illness/injury causing extreme pain
  • Natural disasters, such as a tornado, flood or hurricane
  • Refugee trauma as a result of torture, war or political violence (shooting, bombing, forced replacement from home, etc.)
  • School violence or threats of violence to students and teachers (school shootings, fights, bullying, etc.)
  • Terrorism or calculated attacks intended to instill panic and psychological damage
  • Traumatic grief after the sudden or anticipated death of a close loved one

It is important to know that what might be considered trauma for one child might not be trauma for someone else. It is always a good idea to seek out support from a professional childhood counselor if you suspect a child has been traumatized.


Helpful links

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

A guide to healing from trauma and moving on.

Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain

Find out what happens when a child experiences severe, prolonged adversity without the support of an adult or caregiver.

Take the ACE Quiz

If you experienced a childhood of abuse and/or neglect, assess your risk for future health problems.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

Discover how a study in obesity ended up uncovering important insights about childhood trauma.

Types of Traumatic Experiences

Learn about the types of trauma from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.