Publication Date



Trauma, Emotional disturbances, Brain research, Neurological organisation, Child development, Resilience (Personality), Cognitive development, Childhood needs, Educational needs


Changing minds: Discussions in neuroscience, psychology and education Issue #3 July 2016


New understandings in developmental and neuroscience research have challenged popular ideas about trauma exposure and brain development during childhood. There is a general misconception that children are more resilient than adults to the effects of trauma and will ‘outgrow’ traumatic experiences (Lieberman & Knorr, 2007). However, these ideas are incorrect and are not supported by current research. In the classroom, children’s trauma symptoms may be understood as attentional deficits, learning disabilities, or behavioural or conduct problems (Downey, 2007). Researchers like Teicher et al. (2003) argue that trauma-informed behaviours are important coping mechanisms that a child may develop to survive extremely stressful experiences, and that focusing on eliminating these behaviours may be damaging to a child, especially in the context of ongoing trauma. Therefore, it is important for educators working with traumatised children to understand the key developmental pathways that may be affected by childhood trauma, and to understand how to support resilience through these pathways (Perkins & Graham-Bermann, 2012). This paper provides a brief synthesis of relevant research from neuroscience, psychology and education to highlight new understandings in childhood trauma research. Rather than being an exhaustive review, it aims to highlight relevant research when considering childhood trauma, and to support reflection on current practice and policy when considering traumatised children in schools.

Place of Publication

Melbourne Vic


Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)