The Long-Term Consequences of Early Childhood Trauma: A Case Study and Discussion.

Publication Date

Winter 1-1-2006







Published Open-Access



Adaptation, Psychological, Child, Child, Preschool, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Combined Modality Therapy, Diagnosis, Differential, Dissociative Disorders, Family Therapy, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Grief, Homicide, Humans, Infant, Life Change Events, Maternal Deprivation, Mental Recall, Personality Assessment, Personality Development, Repression, Psychology, Spouse Abuse, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic


There is a great need to better understand the impact of traumatic events very early in life on the course of children's future development. This report focuses on the intriguing case of a girl who witnessed the murder of her mother by her father at the age of 19 months and seemed to have no recollection of this incident until the age of 11, when she began to exhibit severe symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in response to a traumatic reminder. The case presentation serves as the basis for a discussion regarding pertinent issues involved in early childhood trauma. This case and accompanying discussion were originally presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and were transcribed and revised for use in this article. Specific topics include early childhood memory and trauma, learning and the appraisal of danger, and PTSD and traumatic grief in early childhood. Clinical and public health implications are also discussed. This case illustrates the dramatic impact that "preverbal" traumatic memories can have on children's later functioning and speaks to the importance of assisting very young children in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events.