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  • Kawsar Koodaruth

Childhood Trauma Resulting In Adult attachment Disorders/Relationship Failures

Updated: May 23, 2021


Adults often say things like: “He was so young when that happened” “He won’t even remember it as an adult,”


Let’s take the case of complex trauma that occurs directly to the child and disrupts their sense of safety and stability. If a child is abused by someone close to them, often a caregiver, it can condition the way the child forms attachments later in life. They may start to see protectors and caretakers through a different filter, no longer trusting those individuals to keep them safe or even “care about them.” Once a child’s sense of identity is fractured, it takes years of work to rebuild those broken pieces and have them regain trust.


In the case of a child experiencing caretaker or parent abuse, a number of adult attachment disorders can occur:


Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment - This form of attachment results when the caregiver ignores or rejects a child’s need. When that child becomes an adult, they may choose to be ultra-independent in order to protect themselves from being rejected again.





Fearful-Avoidant Attachment - When a child experiences and is exposed to abuse and neglect it is natural for some to fear intimacy and close relationships. Now in adulthood, those with fearful avoidant attachment are often distrustful and have a difficult time sharing emotions and may seem disconnected from their partner.


Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment - This adult may seem clingy or needy and will often require repeated validation in relationships. They will never entirely feel secure, stemming from a childhood with parents who were not consistent in the emotional security they provide. Loving the child and then rejecting them repeatedly causes the child to continuously question their place and require ongoing validation.


The effects of child trauma are many, and they are nuanced depending on the trauma and the child themselves. If a child comes from a home that does not provide a sense of security and protection for that child, they may resort to developing their own forms of coping mechanisms allowing them to function day-to-day just to survive. They may live on eggshells, having become accustomed to a parent or caretaker lashing out. The result is sensitivity to each interaction and the moods of others, fearful that the individual fly into a rage. These children learn to adapt by withholding their own emotions and making waves. Masking their fear, anger and sadness.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, strong connections exist between childhood trauma and high-risk behaviour such as smoking, having unprotected sex, and experiencing chronic illness such as heart disease and cancer. Individuals who have experienced abuse are likely to experience stress and anxiety later in life. This long-term stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms as well as emotional issues throughout life. In short, childhood trauma creates a fractured foundation for the individual for the rest of their lives. The way we are raised and the sense of security it creates (or shatters), all impact the emotional, and sometimes physical path, we take as adults.



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