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: Effects on Children - By Function

Attachment Functions

  • Uncertainty about the reliability and predictability of the world
  • Problems with boundaries
  • Distrust and suspiciousness
  • Social isolation
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Difficulty attuning to other people's emotional states
  • Difficulty with perspective taking
  • Difficulty enlisting other people as allies


  • Sensory motor developmental problems
  • Hypersensitivity to physical contact
  • Analgesia
  • Problems with coordination, balance, body tone
  • Difficulties localizing skin contact
  • Increased medical problems across a wide span (e.g., pelvic pain, asthma, skin problems, autoimmune disorders, pseudo seizures)

Affect Regulation

  • Difficulty with emotional regulation
  • Difficulty describing feelings and internal experiences
  • Problems knowing and describing internal states
  • Difficulty communicating wishes and desires


  • Distinct alterations in states of consciousness
  • Amnesia
  • Depersonalization and derealization
  • Two or more distinct states of consciousness, with impaired memory for state-based events


  • Difficulty in attention regulation and executive functioning
  • Lack of sustained curiosity
  • Problems with processing novel information
  • Problems focusing on and completing tasks
  • Problems with object constancy
  • Difficulty planning and anticipating
  • Problems understanding own contribution to what happens to them
  • Learning difficulty
  • Problems with language development
  • Problems with orientation in time and space
  • Acoustic and visual perceptual problems
  • Impaired comprehension of complex visual-spatial patterns

Behavioral Control

  • Poor modulation of impulses
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Aggression against others
  • Pathological self-soothing behaviors
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Excessive compliance
  • Oppositional behavior
  • Difficulty understanding and complying with rules
  • Communication of traumatic past by reenactment in day-to-day behavior or play (sexual, aggressive, etc)

Self Concept

  • Lack of a continuous, predictable sense of self
  • Poor sense of separateness
  • Disturbances of body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Shame and guilt

Last Updated: December 18, 2007
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