Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychic trauma in children-Treatment, Psychic trauma in adolescence-Treatment, Resilience (Personality trait) in children, Resilience (Personality trait) in adolescence, Children, Adolescents, Complex trauma, Treatment


Exposure to repeated traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, and domestic and community violence is often referred to as complex trauma. This research was conducted to better understand the developmental impact of complex trauma on children and adolescents, and to consider what treatment approach might best serve this population. The author first examined the impact of repeated victimization on child neurobiological development, with particular attention to the areas of attachment, affect regulation, behavioral control, cognition, and self-esteem. Complex trauma treatments that are more individually focused and grounded in cognitive-behavioral theory were then compared to those that are more systems-focused and stem from attachment and intersubjective theories. This author found that most of the literature agrees on the following core components of treatment for youth with complex trauma histories: safety, selfregulation, self-reflective information processing, traumatic experiences integration, and relational engagement. An area that seems to be getting increasing attention is treatment directed at fostering strengths and building competencies. The author concluded that including a caregiver in as much of the treatment as possible can support attachment and lead to longer-term positive gains. The author found that both approaches offer potentially effective interventions, and combining components from both can result in a more comprehensive treatment approach. This study includes a case example and a discussion of implications for clinical social work practice with a focus on cultural considerations as well as recommendations for further research.




iii, 96 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 80-96)

Limited Access until August 2019