Over 10 years ago, children placed in permanent placements were recognised as having attachment difficulties. Since then, advances in neuroscientific research have shown that early childhood trauma can disrupt every area of a child’s development and lead to serious behavioural difficulties.
Although this trauma is caused by the failure of the primary attachment relationship, whether as a consequence of abuse, neglect or emotional unavailability, the impact can be pervasive and multi-faceted. Multiple and/or chronic adverse traumatic events in childhood change the brain’s structure and function, affecting more than just the child’s ability to form a secure attachment bond.
Abused and neglected children struggle with peer relationships and learning in the classroom. In order to help this group of children learn and keep regulated, an understanding of how abuse and neglect impact child development is required.
Emotional regulation, mood, sensory processing, learning, physical health and social functioning can also be affected. This constellation of difficulties has become known as Developmental Trauma. (Bessel Van der Kolk, 2005)
Psychiatrists Bruce Perry and Bessel Van der Kolk have identified developmental trauma as a huge issue for children in the public care system. They advocate for a neurosequential approach to treatment, which involves matching the nature and timing of specific therapeutic and clinical techniques to different developmental stages of the brain. This evidence underpins the work of Family Futures’ therapy team and how we support placements.