If a child is too young to understand what’s happening, how can there be any negative effects?


If a child is too young to understand what’s happening, how can there be any negative effects?

Children don’t need to understand to respond emotionally and physically. For example, very young children’s heart rates go up in response to the sound of an adult screaming or crying. This hyperarousal may not just end after the screaming stops. The youngest child we treated was an 11-month-old who was with her mother when the mother’s boyfriend attacked her. The baby kept waking up screaming at night. She screamed whenever the mother left her, even if the mother only went into another room of the house. She cried all day in daycare. She wasn’t eating well. Although the baby didn’t understand the situation, she responded to the intensity of what had occurred and to the change in her mother’s mood afterward.

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