Monday, December 27, 2010

Abstract about Child Abuse, Attachment and Managing Emotions

ABSTRACT:  Childhood abuse and neglect and loss of self-regulation.

AUTHOR:  van der Kolk BA, Fisler RE.
Trauma Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Secure attachments with caregivers play a critical role in helping children develop a capacity to modulate physiological arousal. It has been shown that most abused and neglected children develop disorganized attachment patterns.

Loss of ability to regulate the intensity of feelings and impulses is possibly the most far-reaching effect of trauma and neglect.  The inability to modulate emotions gives rise to a range of behaviors that are best understood as attempts at self-regulation. These include aggression against others, self-destructive behavior, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

The capacity to regulate internal states affects both self-definition and one's attitude toward one's surroundings. Abused children often fail to develop the capacity to express specific and differentiated emotions: Their difficulty putting feelings into words interferes with flexible response strategies and promotes acting out. Usually, these behaviors coexist, which further complicates diagnosis and treatment.

Affective dysregulation can be mitigated by safe attachments, secure meaning schemes, and pharmacological interventions that enhance the predictability of somatic responses to stress. The ability to create symbolic representations of terrifying experiences promotes taming of terror and desomatization of traumatic memories.

Bull Menninger Clin. 1994 Spring;58(2):145-68.


  1. This is good information, and well put. Sadly many people have difficulty accepting this, and I would say that its because people want to deny the destructive effects of abuse, unfortunately.

    Alexia Miller

  2. Thanks, Alexia.
    When I post, I usually think I am preaching to the choir and forget that there are some who do not believe.
    Denying abuse may be a form of self-protection in some ways - but there are other ways, better ways, fortunately.


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