Researchers Find a Link Between Complex Trauma and Cognitive Impairments

In Education

Researchers from King’s College, London, have found a link between complex trauma in children and cognitive impairment and psychopathology. Repeated interpersonal violence or neglect at an early age can lead to complex trauma.

Complex trauma often occurs with a caregiver resulting in the child’s inability to form a secure attachment. Attachments influence the mental and physical health of a child. Complex trauma differs from single incident trauma as it occurs repeatedly. It also exhibits more symptoms than those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, people suffering from both of these traumas can have PTSD.

How researchers conducted the study

Researchers examined 2,232 people from the E-Risk study born between 1994 and 1995 in Wales and England for the investigation by monitoring the childhood of the study respondents. Some participants had gone through constant child abuse, and others had gone through non-complex trauma like mental health conditions, car accidents, and cognitive challenges. The third group of participants had not gone through any childhood trauma.

Their findings showed that the group of volunteers that had gone through complex trauma were more likely to experience challenges in their mental health than those who had undergone non-complex trauma or no trauma at all.

Researchers also found that many childhood vulnerabilities at age 5 predicted the likelihood of developing complex trauma. However, these vulnerabilities did not indicate non-complex trauma.

Early childhood vulnerabilities could cause complex trauma

According to Andrea Danese, the study also shows that not all cognitive challenges experienced by people with complex trauma result from the trauma. Instead, pre-existing childhood vulnerabilities that make people more likely to experience complex trauma can also be responsible for cognitive issues. For this reason, doctors should avoid making conclusions and instead address these vulnerabilities in their treatment plans.

However, researchers found that these vulnerabilities did not always explain mental health issues associated with complex trauma. Instead, the child’s response to the trauma like self-blame and features like the severity of trauma could cause mental disorders.

The team hopes that other scientists could use their findings to develop more effective treatments for people living with complex trauma.

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