The articles in this issue of ZERO TO THREE delve into the prevalence and consequences of trauma in the lives of young children.
It is now well documented that childhood abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction lead to a host of physical and social problems later in life. Because young children experience their world through their relationships with parents and caregivers, the quality of these relationships is fundamental to the healthy development of physical, emotional, social, behavioral, and intellectual capacities.
Unfortunately, family dysfunction, abuse, and trauma often become an intergenerational problem. One component in child maltreatment prevention is to promote safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and their caregivers. However, to be effective, systems that work with these troubled families must identify the parent’s trauma history and understand how their early traumatic experiences impair their ability to parent their own children successfully. Strengthening the protective factors—such as supportive family environments and social networks—that buffer children during times of stress is a complex undertaking. The articles in this issue provide thoughtful analysis of these challenges and provide strategies for addressing the effects of trauma at the individual, family, and systems levels.