Childhood experiences can have a lasting impact on emotions, behavior, and experiences later in life.
Jenifer Goodwin, HealthDay Reporter for BusinessWeek, recently wrote about a study published in the July/August issue of the Child Development journal that explores this issue within the context of the September 11th tragedy. Goodwin writes:
Kids whose mothers struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression after the 2001 assault on the World Trade Center were more likely to have behavioral problems three years later than children whose moms coped better with the attacks, the researchers said.
This is in line with the work of Dr. Bruce Perry, which we’ve discussed on this blog. Just as with his work, we find that the mental stress undergone by the parents communicates itself to the children. This indirect trauma is a powerful force. Goodwin continues:
‘With young kids, you have two possible sources of trauma: what they experienced directly, and how they react to the impact on their mother from what she experienced,’ said lead study author Claude Chemtob, director of the Family Trauma Research Program at New York University. ‘What we learned was, in fact, that if the mom’s experience with 9/11 led to her having depression or PTSD, it had more of an impact than whether the kids saw it or not.’
Katherine Muller, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, points out that while the findings related to the PTSD and depression are interesting, there is nothing in the study to directly link those ailments to the terrorist attacks. This does not demonstrate the lack of usefulness of the data, simply the lack of a measurable connection with that tragedy as opposed to other traumas. Goodwin quotes Muller as saying:
‘The value is there is more evidence that when moms have these two conditions at the same time, there is some impact on the kids, whether it’s related to 9/11 or an earthquake or even more personal experience of trauma such as domestic violence or abuse or a car accident.’
With the violence that can erupt in an urban setting, it is hardly surprising that opportunity for trauma would be greater in the low-income areas. Whether it is that sort of trauma or something more disturbingly prosaic — such as child abuse or neglect — the effects are lasting.
The escalation of behavioral problems in these cases is a symptom of a missed opportunity, the opportunity for the children to truly realize their potential. The seeds of our societal future are sown in the homes of our children.
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Source: “Mom’s Mental State Influenced Kids’ Well-Being After 9/11: Study,” BusinessWeek, 07/15/10
Image by Video4Net, used under its Creative Commons license.
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