Institute of Childhood Trauma and Attachment

The George Hull Centre Institute of Childhood Trauma and Attachment is dedicated to transforming how child and youth-serving sectors respond to children and youth who have experienced traumatic experiences and attachment disruptions.

Created in September 2019, the Institute aims to elevate practice in child and youth-serving sectors by contributing to research, advocating for appropriate treatment of traumatized children and youth, and disseminating training and knowledge across the province.

What is Childhood Trauma & How Does it Affect Children?

Childhood trauma includes events such as experiencing maltreatment (physical, sexual and emotional abuse), witnessing domestic violence, community violence, abandonment, neglect, loss of a loved one, discrimination, and bullying. Typically, these events are associated with intense feelings of fear, helplessness, loss of control and shame.

As many as two thirds of children experience a traumatic event prior to age 16 [i], and many children exposed to one traumatic event have also been exposed to additional adverse experiences[ii].  Approximately 85% of children involved in the child welfare system have been exposed to a traumatic event[iii].

Traumatic experiences can produce physical, psychological and emotional reactions that last a lifetime. Exposure to a traumatic event can interfere with brain development for children and youth[iv], and it is a risk factor for a number of potentially maladaptive outcomes including emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and social impairment. Without the appropriate intervention, traumatic childhood experiences can result in significant and enduring adult mental health problems[v].



The Importance of Attachment Relationships

Children who have secure attachment relationships are much more resilient in the face of adverse childhood events. Strong relationships with adults provide a buffer from stressful or challenging life events and serve to mitigate the psychological, physiological and brain impacts of these events. 

The children most at risk for long lasting and serious impacts of trauma are those who do not have secure attachment relationships. Children with insecure attachments are much more vulnerable to the effects of stress.  This is magnified multiple times when the source of stress is the caregiver, such as is the case when the caregiver physically, sexually or emotionally abuses the child.






[i] Copeland, W. E., Keeler, G., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2007). Traumatic events and posttraumatic stress in childhood. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64(5), 577-584.

[ii] Nurius, P. S., Green, S., Logan-Greene, P., & Borja, S. (2015). Life course pathways of adverse childhood experiences toward adult psychological well-being: A stress process analysis. Child Abuse & Neglect, 45, 143-153.

[iii] Nemeroff, C. B., Bremner, J. D., Foa, E. B., Mayberg, H. S., North, C. S., & Stein, M. B. (2006).   Posttraumatic stress disorder: a state-of-the-science review. Journal of psychiatric research, 40(1), 1-21

[iv] Miller, E. A., Green, A. E., Fettes, D. L., & Aarons, G. A. (2011). Prevalence of maltreatment among youths in public sectors of care. Child maltreatment, 16(3), 196-204.

[v] Finkelhor D, Ormrod RK, Turner HA. Poly-victimization: A neglected component in child victimization. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2007;31(1):7–26.