Trauma Informed Practice
The harmful effects of childhood exposure to traumatic events has been demonstrated consistently and across many different areas of a young person’s life, including health, education, employment, and involvement with the criminal justice system.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been associated with a range of concerning behaviours and there is growing evidence that shows the high prevalence of ACEs among young people who’ve committed offences.
Increasing awareness and understanding of the impact of trauma, how to recognise its signs and symptoms, and how to work sensitively with young people to avoid re-traumatisation has become an increasingly popular approach across lots of services related to violence prevention.
The question anyone should ask is not ‘why are you behaving like this?’ but instead ‘what’s happened to you?
What can you do?
Root causes – Being trauma informed
There is a growing evidence base that links a young person’s involvement in violence with traumatic experiences or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) they have experienced in their lives.
Traumatic experiences, whether a single event or those happening repeatedly, can directly affect the young person and can have a significant impact on their self-efficacy, emotional regulation and general ability to succeed/make positive choices in life.
How trauma can affect thinking or behaviour
- Cognitive – Young people can become hypervigilant, so they are watching out for or seeing danger where it does not exist, particularly in new relationships and with people in authority They may find it difficult to accurately interpret what other people are thinking. Stress shuts down thinking capacity so people can struggle to make safe decisions.
- Affective – Young people may find managing emotions difficult and it can be hard to put these emotions into words. Trauma can lead to feelings of anger or shame and that the person does not deserve anything good.
- Physiological –They may dissociate, which where they feel that things are not real and may disengage or appear not to care. They may have memory problems.
- Interpersonal – There may be problems with boundaries and relationships might not follow safe patterns. People may isolate socially as it is easier to be on our own than risk being around others. There may be patterns of repeated abusive relationships or struggling to move away from abusers.
- Behavioural – Behaviour may be internalised, such as self-harm, drug or alcohol abuse. It may be externalised and be seen in physical or verbal aggression or behaving in ways that invoke social sanctions and exclusion. Young people may be impulsive and struggle with delayed gratification and decision-making.
Types of trauma:
- The death or loss of a loved one
- Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- Abandonment, betrayal of trust or neglect
- Witnessing domestic violence or abuse
- Witnessing or experiencing community violence
- Parental substance abuse
- Parental mental health issues
- Poverty and hunger
Signs of trauma:
- Inconsistent/changes in academic performance
- Higher rate of school absence
- More suspensions or exclusions
- Difficulties with concentration, memory and cognition
- Reduced ability to focus, organise and process information
- Lower reading ability and/or language skills
- Difficulties with effective problem-solving, organisational skills and/or planning ability