This document provides a brief overview of trauma and strategies for addressing its consequences. It also includes links to resources for measuring trauma and resilience.
Trauma can occur as a result of violence, abuse, neglect, loss, and other emotionally harmful experiences.1 Resilience refers to the ability of an individual, family, or community to cope with adversity and trauma, and adapt to challenges or change.2
Traumatic and toxic stressors such as physical abuse, exposure to domestic or community violence, and depending on parents with mental health and substance abuse problems, tend to cluster in families—often when one stressor is present, others are present as well.3 Additionally, some communities have been exposed to disproportionate levels of trauma. For example, American Indians and Alaska Natives and African Americans have experienced historical trauma that can be transmitted from one generation to the next. Military service members, veterans, and their families have dealt with the losses, fears, and injuries associated with ongoing wars.1
While many people who experience trauma will go on with their lives without lasting negative effects, others will experience impaired neurodevelopmental and immune system responses, and subsequent health risk behaviors resulting in chronic physical and behavioral disorders.1 The more traumatic experiences a child is exposed to, the more likely the child will have difficulty with social and emotional functioning in childhood, exhibit cognitive problems, fail in school, and have high levels of mental health problems and substance abuse as an adult.3
Building individual resilience is an on-going process related to many factors, including: individual health and well-being, individual aspects, life experiences, and social support.2 Interactions with responsive parents and other caregivers, rich sensory stimulation, and routines that shape a child’s day can actually build a child’s brain in healthy ways. Further, responsive communities can provide critical support for vulnerable children and families.3 Family organization, belief systems, and communication all contribute to resilience as do strong community bonds, resources, and capacity.2
National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data & Technology
The NCANDS collects state-level data on child maltreatment, including data on characteristics of maltreatment reports, child subjects of these reports, services provided, and perpetrators of the maltreatment.
Kids Count Data Center, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Kids Count provides hundreds of measures of child well-being at the state- and community-level, including measures of child abuse and neglect, housing, safety and risky behavior, employment, education, and poverty.
Child Trends DataBank
The Child Trends DataBank includes hundreds of measures of child and youth well-being at the national-, state-, and community-levels on health and safety, child care, education, behaviors, demographics, family and community, and economic security.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This site describes the ACEs Study, lists the adverse childhood experiences studied, provides data and statistics on the prevalence of ACEs and related substance abuse and mental health outcomes, and provides questionnaires that include ACE measures.
Flourishing Children Project, Child Trends Child Trends developed indicators of flourishing among children and youth for inclusion in national surveys and program evaluations which includes indicators under the constructs of personal flourishing, flourishing in school and work, flourishing in relationships, relationship skills, helping others to flourish, and environmental stewardship.
A Public Health Approach to Children’s Mental Health: A Conceptual Framework—Chapter 6, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development
Chapter 6, Part A of this resource describes the data-driven decision making process, and provides: examples of mental health and problem behaviors, outcomes, and determinants; resources for measuring and monitoring children’s well-being; and examples and sources of existing data.
Strengthening Families: The Protective Factor Framework, Center for the Study of Social Policy
Protective factors featured in this framework include parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and social and emotional competence of children.
Resilience and Stress Management Resource Collection, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
This resource collection provides examples of how resilience is demonstrated, protective factors that enhance resilience, and facilitators of resilience at three levels: individual resilience, organizational resilience, and community resilience.
Developed under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies contract (Reference #HHSS277200800004C).