In this time of colliding crises, trauma is all too common. Over 70% of adults experience at least one traumatic event and a third of children do so before age 18, causing scholars and policymakers to declare the trauma pandemic a leading public health concern. Trauma has widespread impacts on child development, including documented alterations to neurobiology, emotional and cognitive functioning, risk behaviors, and social relationships.
However, science has yet to understand whether and how trauma may thwart the development of character, particularly connective character that promotes healthy, protective social relationships though gratitude, generosity, and love. Trauma-induced delays or developmental deviations may be particularly detrimental for connective character, which could otherwise be a route to healing from trauma itself.
In this project we address the big question of whether connective character has the power to protect and heal us from the intergenerational harm caused by trauma. We examine this question in a population heavily at-risk for trauma exposure - mothers in recovery from addiction and their children (aged 6-12). We test five aims that examine the role of parent socialization in the development of connective character in children exposed to trauma as well as the role of child and parent trauma in this socialization process.
Outputs include scientific publications, a continuing education workshop for healthcare providers, a white paper for family specialists, and a public-facing article. Impacts include increased awareness regarding the link between trauma and character among researchers, service providers, family specialists, and the public. Through this awareness, we hope to enrich prevention and intervention efforts for trauma-informed care by encompassing the developmental science of connective character.