Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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Trauma Sensitive Schools

What is Trauma?
Types of Traumatic Exposure
What is Complex Trauma?
Trauma Response and Reaction
Effects of Trauma
Effects on Children - By Function
Effects on Children - By Age

About Trauma: What is Complex Trauma?

The term complex trauma describes the problem of children's exposure to multiple or prolonged traumatic events and the impact of this exposure on their development. Typically, complex trauma exposure involves the simultaneous or sequential occurrence of child maltreatment - including psychological maltreatment, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and domestic violence - that is chronic, begins in early childhood, and occurs within the primary care-giving system. Exposure to these initial traumatic experiences, and the resulting emotional dysregulation, loss of safety, direction, and the ability to detect or respond to danger cues, often sets off a chain of events leading to subsequent or repeated trauma exposure in adolescence and adulthood. (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2004).

Last Updated: December 18, 2007
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