Does Childhood Trauma Change the Body of the Child or Just Their Thinking?

Nature vs. nurture is a question that has been asked for decades.  Does your DNA or your life experience speak louder into who you grow up to be? The testing has been done and the results are in... yes, it is both; however, it STRONGLY leans toward nurture or environmental exposures as the greatest factor impacting the outcome on today's children. 

It is interesting that proponents of the argument for our biology being the strongest factor for childhood outcomes would point to adopted children as proof that the very DNA that adopted children were made up of would likely be the reason for difficult adoptee children in an otherwise "healthy" home. Studies have since shown that the very fact that these children NEEDED to be adopted led to one of the greatest trauma events any child could ever experience simply in needing to be separated from the biological mother.

As an adoptive mom to 11 children myself, I know adoption is a HUGE blessing. And yet I also know that it is NEVER the best option for any given kid. God's design was for a child to be raised with a healthy, capable, loving, stable family unit. And yet, when this is not possible, adoption is a huge gift to both the child and adoptive parents. This does not however mean that the child isn't wounded in the process of the adoption. "Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child" by Nancy Newton Verrier details how even adoptions at birth leave an impact on development of a child. 

Many children that are adopted are not fortunate enough to be placed at birth. Children experience neglect and abuse, both in the physical and emotional form, neglect, or abandonment somewhere after birth and prior to adoption. Other children never get removed from the unsafe home that they live in with their family and endure 18+ years of uncertainty, lack of safety, poverty, beatings and addiction. In either case, early trauma exposure is one of the greatest indicators for likely outcomes for addiction, disease, mental health needs, perpetuating abuse, and suicide. 

Kaiser studied over 17,000 patients over a 2 year period in a test called the Adverse Childhood Experience Study. The results were astounding. ACE Test Info Here This test not only scored for direct abuse or neglect to the child, but also what is known as toxic stress which is an ongoing environmental stress such as an alcoholic parent or growing up in poverty. The results OVERWHELMINGLY showed that children with higher exposures to childhood trauma or toxic stress had much harder adult lives. 


Why? The question becomes obvious. What is it about the trauma or toxic stress that creates such poor outcomes for our children as adults? Our child's body unleashes a lot of natural hormones and chemicals when under the stress of abuse or neglect. These body shifts actually change the body's neurological development, and the connections that do or do not form between neurons in the brain. When the child experiences repeated stressors, the body hold onto these chemical shifts in order to protect itself from constant highs and lows. This results in changes that they can track to the chemical and sometimes DNA level of our kids. Folks, this is how serious trauma is to our kids. It forever changes them. (Promise to dive deeper into this next blog.)

Now of course, there is good news. The ACE study doesn't consider all factors. A Harvard School of Medicine study talks about the impact of other stressors as well as mitigating factors such as supportive kinship or community for trauma exposed kids.See Harvard findings here. For us adoptive moms, it also doesn't take into consideration the impact that moving a child from an environment full of stressors to an environment full of love, support, therapy, and resources can do to overcome the previous trauma exposures. 


I know this... neurofeedback has come a long in way helping my children break brain patterns that were formulated before their adoption and take on better subconscious processing and behaviors. I know that my kids that seemed "too far gone" have pleasantly surprised me as young adults and far exceeded the ACE score findings--- in a good way. I know that God is God, and that He knows what our children will and won't become.  ACE scores are neurological findings; they aren't designed to have us mamas standing in fear, rather in steadfast determination that OUR KIDS will beat the odds because we will literally love the HELL right out of them. No Satan, there is no room for you here!!! If 'nurture' has the strongest impact on our children as they grow up in a negative way, don't you think that the opposite also holds true? 

 Looking for more information on raising your trauma exposed child? Join us at Don't miss out on future blogs! Use the link at page right to subscribe! You've got this, Mama. 

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