Child refugees and the psychological impacts of early childhood trauma Lessons learnt from child protection Dr David Everett and Dr Deepa Jeyaseelan Department of Paediatrics, Flinders Medical Centre
Risk factors for child health outcomes More likely to have mother with less than high school education; be from single parent household or ESL household. Backgrounds of prenatal stressors, maternal mental health or substance abuse issues, poor family organisation.
Brain development is sequential and hierarchical. Like most hierarchies, it is fairly rigid in function, and has a large ‘executive function’ department which is dependant on progressively smaller ‘primitive function’ departments!
The brain is undeveloped at birth
It organizes from the bottom up (brain stem to cortex) and from the inside out
Experiences do not have equal impact throughout development (generally greater impact the earlier the age)
Translating experience (sensory input) into function (patterned neuronal activity).
All neurons change their molecular functioning in a use-dependent fashion
Therefore, patterned sensory input leads to patterned changes in neuronal systems
Patterned neuronal changes allow the brain to make internal representations of the ‘external’ world
The more a neural system is activated, the more that system changes to reflect that activation pattern – this is the basis for development, memory and learning.
Experience matters, because experience changes the brain (good and bad)
States become Traits Especially if repeated, unpredictable, physically or verbally violent
Mal-treatment, trauma and fear – impact on learning
Traumatized children have a typical set of observable problems at school. Includes difficulties with attention, processing and storing information, and problems acting on their experiences in an age-appropriate manner
NEGLECT – effects of early intervention on brain growth are enhanced the earlier the intervention starts
social disadvantage perpetuates itself if intervention does not occur early Source: Inequality in the early cognitive development of British children in the 1970 cohort by Leon Feinstein, Economica, February 2003 High social class, high score at 22 months High social class, low score at 22 months Low social class, high score at 22 months Low social class, low score at 22 months Social background is a more powerful predictor of educational outcomes by age 10 than attainment at 22 months less able richer children overtake more able poorer children by the age of six 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 22 28 34 40 46 52 58 64 70 76 82 88 94 100 106 112 118 Age in months Average position in the distribution