Symptoms and Behaviors Associated with Exposure to Trauma

Children suffering from traumatic stress symptoms generally have difficulty regulating their behaviors and emotions. They may be clingy and fearful of new situations, easily frightened, difficult to console, and/or aggressive and impulsive. They may also have difficulty sleeping, lose recently acquired developmental skills, and show regression in functioning and behavior.

Possible Reactions of Children 0-6 Exposed to Traumatic Stress

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Behavior Type

Children aged 0–2

Children aged 3–6




Demonstrate poor verbal skills


Exhibit memory problems


Have difficulties focusing or learning in school


Develop learning disabilities


Show poor skill development





Display excessive temper

Demand attention through both positive and negative behaviors

Exhibit regressive behaviors

Exhibit aggressive behaviors

Act out in social situations


Imitate the abusive/traumatic event


Are verbally abusive


Scream or cry excessively


Startle easily

Are unable to trust others or make friends


Believe they are to blame for the traumatic experience


Fear adults who remind them of the traumatic event

Fear being separated from parent/caregiver

Are anxious and fearful and avoidant


Show irritability, sadness, and anxiety


Act withdrawn


Lack self-confidence





Have a poor appetite, low weight, and/or digestive problems


Experience stomachaches and headaches


Have poor sleep habits

Experience nightmares or sleep difficulties

Wet the bed or self after being toilet trained or exhibit other regressive behaviors