Are later mental health issues related to childhood trauma

Are later mental health issues related to childhood trauma?

Owens-Jordan, Megan N., Pattum, Thmyra G, Rester, Jordyn A.,

Schultz, Jade M., Solomon, Onasia J., Thierry, Yolanda M.,

Thomas-Hilts, Marlena L., Townsley, Matthew A.

Social Research Methods SOCL 320 Spring 2021

Professor Muhammad Haque

McNeese State University

February 12, 2021

Objective and Rationale: Childhood trauma often occurs when children experience an overwhelmingly negative event that affects their cognitive and emotional development. Although not all life-threatening events are traumatic, some common traumatic experiences during childhood include but are not limited to sexual abuse, bullying, exposure to war, or a parent’s death. According to Goodman (2013), trauma is relative; a traumatic event to one child might not be traumatic to another child. Thus, trauma is caused by either a one-time event, a continuous event, or a commonly overlooked issue, causing adulthood behaviors and decision-making to be clinically termed as “abnormal” (De Bellis and Zisk, 2014). The prevalence of childhood trauma experiences, both reported and non-reported, followed by a surge in mental health issues, raises concerns about the two cases’ relation. This study seeks to examine the link between childhood trauma and later mental health issues. Trauma may cause people to adopt various coping mechanisms, including physical, psychological, or biological changes, leaving them vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and anxiety.

These studies’ findings will help ascertain the relationship between childhood trauma and adulthood mental health by combining nomothetic and idiographic research approaches. Although traumatic experiences vary from one individual to another, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scale harmonizes the common causes making the blended approach suitable for this study. Mental health patients often lack social support due to explicit factors such as stereotyping and implicit factors such as low self-esteem.

Data Trend: According to Copeland et al. (2018), cognitive theories suggest that early childhood experiences make individuals develop maladaptive strategies that affect their attachment and interpersonal relationships. These maladaptive schemes are an impetus to a range of mental illnesses such as bipolar and psychosis. A 2018 study by Copeland et al. found that cumulative exposure to traumatic experiences for most 16-year-old children is highly associated with mental disorders later in life. In this study, 22.5% of the recipient confessed to having experienced two types of traumas, while 14.8% experienced more than three types of traumas in their childhood (Copeland et al., 2018). These findings are reinforced by a 2019 study by Devi et al., which found a correlation between childhood trauma and adulthood mental issues. In 2019, the WHO estimated that early interventions of childhood trauma would save America and Europe over $1.3 trillion annually since it would significantly reduce mental health issues among adults with childhood trauma histories (Devi et al., 2019).

Scope: (The study expounds existing research on childhood trauma and its relation to later mental health issues. Combining the idiographic and nomothetic approach ensures that the study covers the common implication of childhood trauma on a child’s future mental health, which may stem from behavioral, cognitive, and social development changes after exposure to childhood trauma. The two approaches provide a deep understanding of mental health and childhood trauma.) The findings will also serve as a basis for recommending various approaches to be utilized by practitioners if they ascertain that a patients’ mental illness is related to childhood trauma. Understanding whether childhood trauma contributes to poor mental health in the future is crucial in formulating nursing interventions and designing counseling sessions.

(a) Schematic Diagram:

17621255715Z1 – Experienced childhood trauma.

00Z1 – Experienced childhood trauma.

33458157620Z2 – No childhood trauma experienced.

00Z2 – No childhood trauma experienced.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Anxiety Disorders/Depression


Anxiety Disorders/Depression






Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar Disorder

3811905883920Y – Are later mental health issues related to childhood trauma?

00Y – Are later mental health issues related to childhood trauma?


(b) Variable Names and Definitions

Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression, is a serious mental illness that can lead to risky behavior, damaged relationship and careers, and suicidal tendencies. It affects men and women equally, with some differences in the way the condition is experienced, as well as all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes. Bipolar disorder more commonly develops in older teenagers and young adults, but it can appear in children as young as 6. To date, there is no known preventative or cure for the disorder, only treatments to control symptoms (

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends. Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties and tends to emerge earlier in males than females, although it can occur in younger children, it is rare for it to occur before late adolescence. The cause of Schizophrenia is unknown, but there has been success in treating the symptoms of the disorder (, 2021).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward and must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD.  Children, as young as 6 years old, and teens can develop PTSD as extreme reactions to trauma, but symptoms typically appear differently than they do in adults (, 2021).

Anxiety disorders come in a wide variety but share features of excessive anxiety and related behavioral disturbances, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders. Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can worsen over time. Additionally, anxiety can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school, and relationships. Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that often coexists with anxiety. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. and is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. It can affect people of any age, but often occurs in adulthood, though children and adolescents with depression experience more irritability than low mood. Many mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as high levels of anxiety in children (


Anxiety Disorders. (2021). Retrieved March 10, 2021, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health Web site: .

Baker, C. K., Harris, F. H., Jones, E. C., & Murphy, A. D. (2009, January 28). Childhood trauma and adulthood physical health in Mexico. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from Disorder. (2021). Retrieved March 10, 2021, from, W. E., Shanahan, L., Hinesley, J., Chan, R. F., Aberg, K. A., Fairbank, J. A., … & Costello, E. J. (2018). Association of childhood trauma exposure with adult psychiatric disorders and functional outcomes. JAMA network open, 1(7), e184493-e184493.

De Bellis, M. D., & Zisk, A. (2014). The biological effects of childhood trauma. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 23(2), 185-222.

Depression. (2021). Retrieved March 10, 2021, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health Web site: .

Devi, F., Shahwan, S., Teh, W. L., Sambasivam, R., Zhang, Y. J., Lau, Y. W., … & Subramaniam, M. (2019). The prevalence of childhood trauma in psychiatric outpatients. Annals of general psychiatry, 18(1), 1-8.

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