Misdiagnosing Intergenerational Trauma

Some children were being medicalised and pathologised at times when they needed trauma care, a conference in Dublin heard

A seven year-old boy and his older sister (9), who watched their mother being bound and kept in a wardrobe for four days, are among the thousands of children who face misdiagnosis with personality or behavioural disorders when in fact they were traumatised, a leading family and child psychotherapist has warned.

Joy Winterbotham, speaking at a conference in Dublin on Thursday on trauma-informed practice, described her work with the children amid concerns about the absence of trauma care for children experiencing multiple adversities.

The conference, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland, also heard from Dr Sharon Lambert of the school of applied psychology in University College Cork.

She said too many children particularly in working-class communities were being diagnosed with such disorders as oppositional defiance disorder, attention deficit disorder, conductive disorder and dissociative identity disorder.

They were medicalised and pathologised, she said, when in fact they needed trauma care. “And all public services should be at least trauma aware,” she said. These included schools.

“There are way too many children who are labelled ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ and they’re not. They are upset, they are sad . . . and then they are out of school on reduced timetables, the place that should keep them because it’s a huge protective factor.”

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – including childhood exposure to abuse or neglect, domestic violence, losing a parent, parental mental illness, parental separation or parental addiction – caused significant trauma that impacted physically, emotionally and behaviourally into adulthood, she said.

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Citing a study of young people in diversion projects, she said 63 per cent had experienced four or more ACEs compared with 12½ per cent of the general population, while 74 per cent had lost a parent compared with 22 per cent of the general population.

“Sometimes we look at young people who have been involved in crime and label them bad, when actually what you have a lot of the time is kids who are really, really sad.


“They are not able to express their emotions or access the supports that they need, and sometimes they hurt themselves and other people.”

To read the full article: CHILDREN IN NEED OF TRAUMA CARE

It is taking us too long to realise that domestic and family violence and abuse is a perpetuating disease within society. Parents need to be aware of what they are doing to the next generation, even if they physically never see the bruises, a child’s intuitive process would allow them to notice the stress points, the unhappiness, the controls, the trauma hidden inside of the marriage.

Every parent should be aware of what it’s doing to the child or children in the marriage and, even after they are separated, the haunting traits of abuse linger around both parents and can feed into the way we speak or act around them.

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