What is Child Traumatic Stress?

Child traumatic stress refers to the physical and emotional responses of a child who has experienced trauma. Such events overwhelm a child's ability to cope and bring about intense physical and emotional symptoms.

Types of Trauma

Acute Trauma
A single disturbing event that is limited in time is called acute trauma. An earthquake, dog bite, or motor vehicle accident are examples.

Chronic Trauma
When a child has experienced multiple disturbing events, the term chronic trauma is used. Chronic trauma may refer to multiple and varied events, such as exposure to household violence and/or community violence, or longstanding trauma such as physical abuse or war.

Complex Trauma
Complex trauma is a term used to describe multiple disturbing events often caused by adults who are caregivers for the child. Children who have experienced complex trauma have endured multiple difficult events that include a caregiver (such as physical or sexual abuse, profound neglect, or community violence) from a very young age (typically younger than age 5).

Additional Resources

Common Child Traumatic Stress Symptoms
Risk Factors for Developing Child Traumatic Stress
Questions to Ask Service Providers
Evidence Based Treatment Descriptors
The Essential Elements of Trauma-Informed Parenting
Next Steps after Referral