Research Topic

Trauma in early childhood: biological, relational and social connections

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The studies on community samples of either adults or children (both in infancy and in early childhood) highlight that 40-68% of the subjects had experienced at least one potentially traumatic event and 37% had been exposed to more than one. It has been well established that while most individuals are ...

The studies on community samples of either adults or children (both in infancy and in early childhood) highlight that 40-68% of the subjects had experienced at least one potentially traumatic event and 37% had been exposed to more than one. It has been well established that while most individuals are resilient to trauma exposure, roughly 30% of traumatized adults will develop PTSD and of these subjects, approximately 50%, will have an unremitting and impaired course of consequences. Similar to adults, data on children clearly shows that post-traumatic and psychopathological symptoms commonly occur following exposure to a traumatic event and dont quickly remit in the course of development.


These data highlight that: (a) infants and children are exposed to a high number of traumatic (or potentially traumatic) experiences; (b) these experiences elicit various symptoms, post-traumatical also, that do not remit spontaneously; (c) these symptoms require an accurate diagnosis, which needs appropriate criteria on the basis of a development oriented approach; (d) the short and long-term consequences of traumatic experiences are expressed both on a biological level, as regards physical growth and health, cerebral development and functioning, and on a relational and social level concerning the quality of intimate and significant bonds and the adjustment.


Defining and applying specific criteria to identify the short and long-term connections between the biological, relational and social factors of the trauma in childhood, represent nowadays two of the main purposes in research and clinical studies on childhood trauma, in order to understand the clinical and social needs of trauma exposed children (and their families, communities, and society) and prevent subsequent psychopathology in their life cycle.


We hope to receive empirical papers that give evidence for the diagnostic issues of the assessment of the trauma in childhood. These papers should include methodological issues and information about the participants, the methods used to assess the impact of the trauma and the subsequent psychopathology, the diagnostic process and/or the short and long-term outcomes on the development of the child and his adjustment in social or affective/ relational terms. Empirical research, addressing the short and long-term consequences of the trauma on the cerebral development and functioning in connection with the cognitive and behavioral correlates showed by the child and, later, by the adult, will be considered with particular attention. Case studies may be of interest to the extent that they demonstrate the value of a systematic approach to diagnostical and empirical study of the trauma in early childhood. A range of theoretical perspectives is welcome as well presentation of new emergent point of views in this field. Because Frontiers in Psychology is an international journal, each empirical paper should comment on the international implications of the findings.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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