Experts say trauma can impact children and their health in more ways than one.

Joy Osofsky, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans, says when children are exposed to negative experiences, it impacts both their mental and physical health. She says stress can lead to physical health problems for young children.

“You can get reports of more headaches and stomach aches in younger children. You can see increases in respiratory issues sometimes related to stress,” Osofsky said.

Osofsky says too often people try to discount the impact of stress by suggesting young children will not remember the trauma, but she says that’s not the case. She says it can also impact a child’s behavior and mental health at the time and later in life.

“Mental health issues are very much related to stress. Anxiety, depression, certainly post-traumatic stress symptoms are impacted by the kinds of experiences they have,” Osofsky said.

Osofsky says the brain isn’t fully developed at a young age, and its development can be hindered by negative experiences. That’s why she says young children need support when they’re exposed to trauma to prevent problems in adulthood.

“It’s very, very important to intervene early if there are negative experiences in order to try to prevent some of the behavior and emotion dysregulation that will occur later on,” Osofsky said.

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