A large body of research tells us that infants and young children exposed to trauma are not protected from psychological harm just because of their age. The importance of identifying and providing treatment to children who have experienced trauma is well understood. Identification and treatment can prevent developmental and psychological problems for these children in the short term. Treatment may also help break the cycle of violence, where victims of early violence become perpetrators themselves later in life. This article discusses the role of pediatricians and pediatric nurses in identifying traumatized children and helping them get care.
Health care providers are required to report suspected cases of child abuse, so many do have experience in dealing with traumatized children. In cases where children have witnessed violence but escaped physical injury themselves, the signs of damage may not be so clear, however. In order to learn whether a young child has been exposed to potentially traumatizing violence, physicians and other pediatric health care providers need to ask about such exposure as they record children's histories.
The authors outline questions that health care providers should ask of parents and guardians. They give several examples of cases where pediatricians, through sensitive interviews with family members, uncovered cases of trauma exposure and were able to refer children to treatment services.