Relational Trauma

Relational trauma can often be traced back to a parent-child relational problem. When teens have childhood trauma as a part of their history, a trauma– and stress-related disorder can appear. Such relational trauma generates a host of threats to a teen’s physical and mental health.

What Is Relational Trauma?

Directly connected to childhood trauma, relational trauma is when the bonding between a parent and child is interrupted or damaged. A parent-child relational problem occurs when a child’s sense of being safe and loved within a family unit is disrupted, usually on a repetitive basis. Since a child’s close relationship with a parent or caregiver is essential, the psychological damage can be extensive. When these relationships are compromised, children and teens may have difficulty learning to trust others, regulate their emotions, and interact with the world.

A parent-child relational problem is not intentional in most cases of relational trauma. The trauma- and stress-related disorder tends to be the product of an ongoing, generational cycle of childhood trauma. Despite the lack of intention, however, relational trauma is harmful, warping the healthy development of a child.

If relational trauma is not treated, the cycle of childhood trauma is likely to continue. A teen’s primary parent-child relational problem and the resulting relational trauma are risk factors for depression, anxiety, and health problems. Repairing relational trauma requires ongoing therapy that focuses on forging authentic connections by fostering positive coping mechanisms.

Sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationNational Child Traumatic Stress Network

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