childhood adversity and mental health

childhood adversity and mental health

Mental Health Matters

Childhood Adversity and Mental HealthChildhood Adversity and Mental Health

The term childhood adversity refers to a set of circumstances present during one’s childhood that puts a child’s emotional and physical well-being at risk. Forms of adversity can include bullying, abuse, neglect, domestic violence, discrimination, hunger, poverty, or other negative, challenging factors. Because key aspects of a child’s development occurs in such a sensitive time period, exposure to harsh situations can lead to lifelong trauma, abnormal brain development, or mental health issues.

Short term effects of adversity in children:

  • Attention difficulties and poor academic performance
  • Impaired cognitive functioning
  • Poor communication skills
  • Recurring nightmares and difficulty sleeping
  • Bedwetting
  • Withdrawal or aggression

Long term effects of adversity in adulthood:

  • Higher potential of alcohol and drug abuse
  • Risk of depression, self-harm, or suicide attempts
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy, personal relationships
  • Higher probability of developing diabetes or heart disease
  • Mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, or anxiety

Fortunately, the negative psychological and physical impacts of adversity also depend on one’s resiliency. Resiliency is defined as the mental or emotional ability to cope with a crisis and overcome adverse situations. The following are factors that influence a child’s resiliency in the face of adversity.

  • Genetics
  • Past experiences or learned self-care skills
  • Social support from parents, guardians, or other adult figures
  • Cultural or societal influences
  • Natural temperament
  • Ability to have positive expectations about the future

Depending on a child’s resilience, adversity can pose a huge threat to one’s childhood experience, development, and long-term emotional and physical health. If you know a child who has or is currently experiencing adversity or trauma, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Providing a child with support and the right resources to build resiliency can prevent a child from life-long struggles of mental health issues. Marriage and Family Therapists can help address childhood trauma and work towards healing from adversity. Please take a look at our online directory for a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in your area today.

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