Trauma, Development, and Spirituality

Explain in detail (using your readings/presentations from this module/week to support what you say) how trauma can affect development, most specifically neural development. Discuss how spiritual development can counter the effects of trauma. What are the determining factors that lead to developmental delays when a child is exposed to trauma? Give details on the prevalence of different types of trauma and if they differ among different cultures.

Make sure to support everything you report with at least 2–3 current APA citations and then a reference page at the end. Review the Essay Grading Rubric before submitting. Your paper must be at least 600 words.


Trauma is an experience that all people are potential vulnerable towards. Trauma comes in many forms ranging from non-typical situations of abuse and neglect to intense reaction to life events such as the death of a loved one or a natural disaster. Trauma may be experienced personally or may result from witnessing a particular event. The effects of trauma are long lasting, though not necessarily irreversible. Trauma may result in a variety of mental health or addiction diagnosis and often has significant impacts on neurological development. While trauma has many negative effects, there are many approaches to trauma that may minimize these effects. One such approach described in the paper is a spiritual approach. Spiritual development and application may provide understanding and hope after a person has experienced trauma and is often a successful means of recovering from the effects of a traumatic experience.







Kuban (2012) defines childhood trauma as “any experience that a child perceives as terrifying and feels hopeless and powerless to do anything about in his or her life, safety, or situation” (p. 15). Trauma can include any number of events, including witnessing violence or abuse, being the victim of violence or abuse, having one’s parents involved in a high-conflict divorce, an incarcerated parent, death of a loved one, natural disaster or suffering the effects of a parent with drug or alcohol addiction (Brooks, 2014; Kuban, 2012; Little & Akin-Little, 2011). Kuban states that one of the reasons there are such a wide array of potentially traumatizing situations is because different experiences may constitute trauma for different individuals. Kuban points out that the primary identifying factor in whether or not an event can be labeled as trauma centers around whether or not the child sees the situation as terrifying.

Effects of Trauma

The experience of trauma can lead to an array of emotional and behavioral difficulties (Young, Kenardy, & Cobham, 2011). Young, Kenardy, & Cobham examined the results of multiple studies and found that the most commonly diagnosed issues are oppositional defiant disorder, separation anxiety disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and major depressive disorder. Childhood trauma can often resemble post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sometimes later leads to a diagnosis of just that (Brady & Back, 2012; Brooks, 2014; Dubovsky, 2011).

Additionally, research has shown that those who experience childhood trauma may later develop alcohol use disorders (Brady & Back, 2012). According to Brady & Back, early stress is associated with a long-term increase of cortisol levels, which in turn causes abnormal functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This can then lead to long-term decreases in inhibition, which allows for increased risk taking that may include drug or alcohol use. According to Brady & Back, studies have also shown that the effects trauma has on neurotransmitters may affect the pathways for dopamine and additionally lead to increased risk of drug or alcohol addiction.

Trauma and Culture

            Certain types of abuse, neglect, and other trauma, at least in their most general form, typically have the potential to permeate all cultures to some extent (Kuban, 2012). Certain cultures may experience trauma in relation to a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, or the Tsunami in Japan (Little & Akin-Little, 2011). According to Little & Akin-Little in cultures where war is a daily reality, children have an increased likelihood of experiencing trauma related to involvement in or witness of violent acts. Children living in poverty may have a higher likelihood of experiencing traumatic events.

Spirituality and Trauma

Spiritual development and practice can help a person to manage and cope with the lasting effects of trauma (Morgan, 2009). Studies have shown prayer and meditation to decrease stress levels and increase overall health (Roehlkepartain, 2006). Additionally, Morgan (2009) points out that an active spiritual live is often associated with increased levels of hope and acceptance of past events. As previously discussed, early experience of trauma can often lead to the development of drug or alcohol issues. Many programs, including Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, use a step-by-step program that includes a spiritual component in which the addict seeks the guidance and comfort of a higher power. Morgan states that “trauma recovery involves repair of connection to community and restoration of shattered trust” (p. 12). The community is often found in a church or other religious setting, and the restoration of trust is a path taken while healing from the past and connecting with the divine.


Trauma is a terrifying event that causes lasting effects on a person’s development. Trauma comes in many forms, but is primary dependent on how an individual perceives a given event. This perception may be effected by the specific details of the event, as well as by a person’s culture and living conditions. The effects of trauma include emotional and behavioral issues, lasting mental health problems, and the potential for the development of drug and alcohol issues. Spiritual connection and involvement is one route towards recovery from trauma and often provides a person with a platform from which to begin understanding their experience, as well as a map of hope towards restoration.














Brady, Kathleen T,M.D., PhD., & Back, S. E., PhD. (2012). Childhood trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcohol dependence. Alcohol Research, 34(4), 408-413. Retrieved from

Brooks, J. (Performer) (2014). Divorce and Stress [Web]. Retrieved from

Dubovsky, S. (2011). Childhood trauma might shorten lives. Journal Watch.Psychiatry, doi:

Kuban, C. (2012). Healing childhood trauma worldwide. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 21(3), 14-16. Retrieved from

Little, S., & Akin-Little, A. (2011). Responses to childhood trauma: An international perspective. School Psychology International, 32(5), 441-447. doi: 10.1177/0143034311402915

Morgan, O. J. (2009). Thoughts on the interaction of trauma, addiction, and spirituality. Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling, 30(1), 5+. Retrieved from

Roehlkepartain, E., King, P. E., Wagener, L., & Benson, P. (2006). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Young , A., Kenardy, J., & Cobham, V. (2011). Trauma in early childhood: A neglected population. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Reviewo, 14(3), 231-250. doi: 10.1007/s10567-011-0094-3





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