Developmental trauma by our definition, is caused by breaks in the sensory bond that connects children with their caregivers. This sensory bond happens through skin-to-skin, eye-to-eye, ear-to-ear and right-brain-to-right-brain contact that creates a resonant field of interconnected energy.
Allen Schore’s introduction of language from quantum sciences into the study of infant and children’s mental health has been a real gift. He uses terms such as emotional synchrony, attunement and resonance to describe this sensory bond between children and their caregivers, particularly their mothers. Language from quantum sciences is also very useful in describing what happens to young children when this sensory field of attunement gets disturbed or even shattered. Schore uses terms such as misattunement and relational trauma to capture the nuances of events and experiences that disrupt this adult-child bond.
From our perspective, developmental trauma is a form of relational trauma that happens over a long period of time. The effects of these subtle experiences gradually accumulate over time, and eventually delay children’s bonding with their mother and other caregivers. This eventually delays their psychological development.
Based on our clinical work, we found that the more bonded children are to their mothers, the more able they are to complete their psychological birth and the process of individuation. We emphasize exactly these points in our books, Breaking Free of the Co-Dependency Trap and The Flight From Intimacy.
The Impact of Developmental Trauma on Adult Relationships
The template for all human relationships is formed during the first year of a child’s life. It is created directly and exactly from his or her interactions with the mother. This template serves as a program that repeatedly reconstellates itself in all subsequent relationships. It becomes a melodic theme that is repeated in many musical keys and different tempos. Emotionally the feeling themes, beliefs and outcomes are identical.
I (Janae) remember my effort to explain this dynamic to my youngest son, who works as a construction superintendent in the home building industry. I began by talking about the footers on which the foundation was poured and likened them to the period of pre-conception. Then I talked about the condition of the soil where the footers were poured and then the importance of the poured or cement block foundation being absolutely square.
Being the bright young man he is, he quickly got the point and began talking in rapid-fire mode about a house he’d worked on with an out-of-square foundation and all the problems he’d had with the framers, the drywallers, the plumbers, tilers and the finish carpenters. The house had been a nightmare for him, he said, because at every turn, the subcontractors had to compensate for this early developmental trauma.
Unlike out-of-square houses, it is possible to modify the impact of developmental trauma on the human mindbody. This is the premise in the fields of of developmental psychology and traumatology, which now focus intensely on clearing trauma from the mindbody AND from the relational template. This premise is also at the heart of Developmental Process Work, our clinical paradigm for working with individuals, couples and the central focus of Developmental Systems Theory, our model for helping larger systems evolve.
You’ll find a wealth of information and tools for resolving intractable conflicts caused by unidentified and unresolved developmental trauma HERE.
And for information on developmental parenting, go HERE.