A systematic review : the effects of trauma on child mental health and well-being
Trauma exposure during childhood increases the risk of multitude complex post-trauma symptomology. Extensive research has been conducted on the effects of trauma exposure on adults, and the findings have been thereafter applied to children. This is problematic due to the developmental differences between adults and children. There is thus a need to understand the unique symptomology of children, who have been exposed to trauma, as understanding the effects of childhood trauma will certainly aid in the prevention and treatment of childhood trauma. This study incorporated a systematic review methodology to analyse the effects of exposure to childhood trauma on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Relevant literature from all the methodological paradigms that were published during the specified time period of this study (2000 – 2016) were considered for. Furthermore, the inclusion criteria also specified that only studies of which the participants were children were allowed to be included in the review; studies focusing on adults and their exposure were deliberately excluded. The initial search strategy yielded a total of 316 articles; after all duplicates had been removed and, the titles and abstracts of the remaining articles had been assessed, the number of relevant articles was reduced to 22. These 22 articles were thereafter assessed by means of a critical appraisal tool to evaluate whether they were suitable for inclusion. Several articles were excluded as the focus of the studies were on treatment modalities and the effects of child trauma in adulthood. This signifies a gap in the literature with regard to studies that investigate the effects of child trauma. Ultimately, only 13 of the 22 articles remained. These underwent full-text evaluation and data extraction. Results of this study provide insight into the effects of child trauma on child mental health and well-being. Based on thematic analysis, the results clearly show that children, who are traumatised, have a negative worldview. In addition, the symptoms they manifest are complex, which often lead to misdiagnosis. Moreover, these studies also explain the resilience processes involved when a child is exposed to trauma. In essence, this study provides parents, caregivers, researchers and mental health professionals with an all-inclusive understanding of the effects of childhood trauma based on a scientific body of literature.