Childhood is often associated with fond memories of delight, purity and joy. It is a period that is often identified by safety, feeling cherished and shielded by one’s family (parents). These connections often form the baseline for establishing secure and strong bonds within the future. On the other hand, many children experience a childhood that deviates from the ideal notion of it as safe, secure, delightful and pure (Zaraki, 2023). In this regard, this article will explore 1) what exactly is a traumatic event, 2) how adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) is connected to childhood trauma, 3) Impact of childhood trauma on adult attachment and lastly 4) the lasting impact/consequences on adult life.

A Traumatic Event:

Any event that is not in accord with everyday situations that causes severe feelings of stress and unhappiness, is considered traumatic (Downey & Crummy, 2022). Another way of understanding what a traumatic event is, according to Cleveland Clinic is to identify if the event or experience causes:

  • Long-term (chronic) stress or
  • Extreme stress (toxic stress)

The common signs that one has experienced a traumatic event is feeling terrified, helpless, at risk of danger/in danger or physically hurt (Cleveland Clinic). Examples of traumatic events natural disasters, domestic violence, shootings, bullying, sexual abuse, loss of family member/ parental divorce or separation etc. These are only some examples there are many more. Furthermore, a traumatic event can either happen once or several times in one’s childhood. Important is to note that not every child will respond the same way to a traumatic event. One might develop long-term stress whereas the other one may not.

Adverse Childhood Experiences:

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) are negative experiences, which occur between the ages of 1 and 17. More than often these experiences are traumatic events. Furthermore, ACE’s can have a lasting impact on a child’s health, throughout their lifetime. This can include mental health conditions, chronic physical health conditions and/ or substance use disorders (Cleveland Clinic).

Childhood Trauma and Adult Attachment:

Attachment theory explores the emotional bonds or connections between infants and their caregivers. The four types of attachment styles are, secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized (Urban, 2020). These affects how children develop emotionally into adulthood. Hence, in adulthood an attachment style refers to how individuals think about and behave in relationships (especially romantic) (Therapist Aid, 2022). Research indicates that children who has developed a secure attachment, can regulate their emotions and cope with anxiety. This helps them to become well-adjusted adults who are capable of forming healthy relationships (Urban, 2020).

On the contrary, if a child experiences traumatic events that is inflicted on him/her by guardian’s or parents, the child is not able to develop a secure attachment. This causes the child’s core belief system to lack protection/safety leading to emotional hesitation (Downey & Crummy, 2022). Therefore, leading to the development of an insecure attachment style within the child, which later spirals into a web of attachment issue’s in adult life.

Childhood Trauma and Lasting Impact/Consequences in Adults:

The ripple effects of childhood trauma are complex and varies from adult to adult. It is impacted by the specific trauma experienced and the child’s individual traits (Zakari, 2023). Research conducted by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, identifies a positive correlation between trauma and high-risk behaviours in adulthood e.g. smoking, unprotected sex and susceptibility to chronic illnesses like cancer and heart diseases (Zakari, 2023). This is also supported by the ACE’s theory, which explains that adults can be impacted years after the traumatic event occurred. Affecting their quality of life, access to opportunities like career and education (Cleveland Clinic).

Conditions or consequences of ACE’s and childhood trauma identified in adulthood are depression and anxiety, sleep disturbances (insomnia), low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse, self-isolation, false-self-image, post-traumatic stress disorder etc. (Downey& Crummy, 2022).

Treatment for ACE’s/ childhood trauma includes:

  • Regularly seeing a mental health therapist for Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
  • Managing or treat underlying issues with medications
  • Enrolling child in supportive education programs in school.
  • Joining support group for, grief, substance use disorders etc. (Cleveland Clinic)

Author: Shayen Gomis

Reference List:

ACEs Aware. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) ( fundamentals/). Accessed 4/4/2023.

Cleveland Clinic. (2023) “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s)” Retrieved from

Downey. C. & Crummy. A. (2022) “The impact of childhood trauma on children’s wellbeing and adult behaviour” European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 6(1(2022)), Article 1. Retrieved from

Urban, Julianne R. (2020) “Attachment Theory and Its Relationship with Anxiety” The Kabod 6(2 (2020)), Article 2. Retrieved from