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About Child Trauma

Trauma is a frightening, dangerous, or violent event that threatens a child’s life or physical integrity.

Also, witnessing a traumatic event that threatens the life or physical security of a loved one can be traumatic, especially for young children.

Today, many refugees, especially children, have experienced trauma related to war, armed conflict, or persecution that affected their mental and physical health long after the events occurred.  

Refugee children face these traumatic events in their original country, during the displacement from their countries of origin, or in camps on borders, and even face the worst in the refugee-hosting countries. 

Throughout years of war, refugee children were exposed to different types of hardships and violence; some were witnesses, some were victims, and others were perpetrators!

Refugee children are still facing traumatic events on a daily basis, like:

  1. Lack of food, clean water, and decent shelter.
  2. Physical injuries, infections, and a wide range of diseases.
  3. Forced labor, sexual assault, and torture.
  4. Disruption in or lack of access to schooling.
  5. Lack of medical care and the loss of loved ones.

Community Violence

Refugees are exposed to all kinds of challenges and hardships throughout their journey for safety. Displaced and living in camps is like coping with life-long pain and despair. 

And while many refugees strive to be resettled in a new country – a refugee-hosting country – as a dream of putting an end to their sufferings, nevertheless, the difficulties they face do not end upon their arrival!

Refugees’ families and their children face a new set of stressors as they try to make a new life for themselves.

The first stressor they face is finding adequate housing, employment, and transportation difficulties. Adding to these difficulties, other majors ones which affect their life significantly;

  • Financial stressors.
  • Lack of access to resources.
  • Loss of community support. 

One of the biggest challenges refugees’ families and children face is trying to fit into the new culture and feel accepted.

Struggling to form an integrated identity mixing the new and the old culture to reveal any cultural misunderstandings they face. 

Unfortunately, refugee-hosting countries see refugees’ families as a minority in a new country, and thus, they take the action of “defense and setting limits.”

As a consequence, refugees suddenly find themselves facing community violence!

  • Feelings of loneliness and loss of social support network.
  • Discrimination and feelings of not fitting in with others.
  • Experiencing harassment from peers, adults, or law enforcement.
  • Being exposed to families who do not trust the refugees’ families and children.


Bullying, also known as peer victimization, is a deliberate and unsolicited action that inflicts social, emotional, physical, and/or psychological harm to someone who is often perceived as less powerful. 

There are pretty good numbers of families in the refugee-hosting countries that see refugee families as a danger or a threat to their children’s safety, so they encourage their children to over-protect themselves and stay away from refugee children, leaving them with two hardships to face; being isolated, and being harassed.

Therefore, these young children repeatedly face a form of aggression and harassment that prevent them from enjoying a safe, stress-free living, learning, or working environment. 

The harmful effects of bullying may be exacerbated by the frequency, pervasiveness, and severity of the behavior, as well as the power differential between the perpetrator and the target. 

Bullying can be…

  1. Physical: hitting, tripping, or kicking.
  2. Verbal: name-calling, teasing, taunting, threatening, and sexual comments.
  3. Social: spreading rumors or embarrassing someone in public. 


Even though adults work hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen.

This danger can come from any type of disaster they’ve witnessed, such as a natural disaster, car accident, school shooting, or community violence. 

Traumatic reactions can include a variety of responses, such as intense and ongoing emotional upset, depressive symptoms or anxiety, behavioral changes, difficulties with self-regulation, attention and academic challenges, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and eating, and physical symptoms, such as aches and pains.

Early Childhood Trauma

Traumatic experiences can initiate solid emotions and physical reactions that persist long after the event. Children may feel terror, helplessness, and fear.

They might also suffer from physiological reactions, such as heart pounding, vomiting, or loss of bowel or bladder control.

Children who experience an inability to protect themselves or who lack protection from others to avoid the consequences of the traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses.


What are the Different Types of Trauma?

Acute trauma results from a single incident. Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged, such as domestic violence or abuse. Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.

What are Childhood Trauma Examples?

1. Refugee or war experiences.
2. Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence.
3. Community or school violence.
4. Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse.
5. National disasters or terrorism. Sudden or violent loss of a loved one.

What is a Trauma Refugee?

Those who have experienced trauma related to war or persecution may affect their mental and physical health long after the events.

How are Refugees Affected Mentally?

Asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to experience poor mental health than the local population, including higher rates of depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders.