LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

The Terrible yet Unrecognized Toll Violence Takes on Children

How to Intervene and Build Resilience

upset child

Joy D. Osofsky, PhD, Paul J. Ramsay Chair and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, is the co-editor of a new two-volume handbook being called a must-read for families, those who work with children and policymakers. “Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children,” Praeger Publishers, ABC-CLIO, 2018, edited by Joy D. Osofsky and Betsy McAlister Groves, details the implications of the types of traumas that occur at the individual, family, community and national levels on children, as well as strategies to build resilience. Children are rarely at the forefront of people's minds when violence occurs, whether it be on the streets of cities, in rural communities, or in homes. The volumes explore the significant influence the increasing exposure to violence and trauma has on children’s development, longer-term impacts over time, as well as how to best respond to improve their lives.

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Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children cover

"Violence and trauma take an often unrecognized toll on children of all ages,” notes Dr. Osofsky. “Exposure to trauma occurs so often that many people have come to expect to hear about violence in their everyday lives. And yet, few people know the appropriate ways and language to talk to children about the violent events that have occurred in their families, communities, and their world.”

The handbooks explain the neurological, emotional, and behavioral impacts of violence and trauma experienced by newborns, infants, children, and teenagers. They detail the effects of a range of types of violence and trauma, including child abuse, sexual abuse, family violence, teen dating violence, loss of parent or caregiver, exposure to natural disasters and more. The editors share mental health interventions and treatment strategies to encourage resilience and posttraumatic growth.

Dr. Joy Osofsky
"Exposure to trauma and violence can change the life course for children, and how these experiences are dealt with by the adults in the children's lives is crucial,” Osofsky says. “There is little question that exposure to violence and trauma for children and adolescents impacts both current and future relationships and their ability to trust. Early exposure can alter brain development and affect social, emotional and cognitive development that influences relationships later in life.”

The editors stress that it is very important to raise awareness about the impact of violence and trauma on children including interventions and treatment strategies that are helpful. Many people avoid talking about violence with children thinking that if it is not talked about or discussed in front of or with children, it will “go away.” Others talk openly about the violence or traumatic events ignoring children who are hearing their discussions, believing that the children won't be listening and, that if they hear, they won't pay attention or understand what is being said.

The handbooks are being lauded by pediatricians, psychiatrists, child stress professionals and judges evidenced by the following reviews on
“Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children may be the most authoritative text describing the full range of the effects and interventions for stressed and traumatized children for the general public. It brings home the key point that child exposure to traumatic and chronically stressful experiences is a Public Health crisis that impacts all aspects of life-physical, emotional, behavioral and social. It is a call to those who are concerned about the future of our society and citizens and must be heeded.” (Steven Berkowitz MD, Visiting Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colorado, School of Medicine, and Director, Stress Trauma and Adversity Research and Treatment (START) Center)

“If you work with children and families, this book set should be open on your desk. Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children: Prevention and Intervention introduces the very important topic of childhood trauma, and then explores its causes and implications across a wide range of systems. It provides a comprehensive look at trauma in the family, the community, schools and the child welfare system, and it explores specialized settings such as the military and primary care pediatrics. As a retired juvenile and domestic relations judge with thirty years’ experience in family court, I witnessed the devastating effects of trauma on children. Trauma was a barrier to our attempts to restore social and emotion health. Had this book been available, it would have been an invaluable resource as I worked across child-serving systems to mitigate trauma and build resiliency.” (Judge Michael L. Howard, Ret., Stark County Family Court, Ohio)

“The editors have created a practical and concise compendium on a complex important topic in the 21st century. Over the last fifty years our understanding of childhood trauma and loss has shifted remarkably and through this comprehensive collection of chapters, the reader is able to both understand the developmental issues but also draw policy and advocacy conclusions. This book will form the basis of many important clinical and research endeavors. (Marilyn Augustyn MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, and Division Director, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Boston Medical Center)

“Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children is a timely, outstanding two-volume set covering the nature, scope, impact, prevention, treatment, advocacy, and policy implications of child traumatic stress. With scholarly, yet highly practical chapters written by seasoned experts in the field, these volumes have much to teach all of us involved in work with children, youth, families, and communities affected by violence and trauma. If you are serious about understanding cutting-edge clinical and public health approaches to child traumatic stress, these volumes are a must read.” (John A. Fairbanks, PhD, Co-Director, UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS), and Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine)