Cognitive and behavioral development of at risk infants and toddlers exposed to stressful life events: The effects of trauma in early childhood

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Neena Malik - Committee Chair


The present study examined the relations between traumatic life events and cognitive, behavioral, and relational competence in an at-risk sample of children between the ages of 11 and 41 months. As part of a larger, ongoing investigation, participants for the current study were 53 children enrolled in Early Head Start programs and their primary caregivers. The children participated in a research session with a primary caregiver. Each caregiver was asked, in interview format, to respond to questionnaires regarding their family background (including family income, family structure, and family housing stability), violence and trauma in the community and the family, and child behavior problems. Child intellectual functioning was assessed using a measure of general cognitive development. A structured, video-taped interaction between children and parents was conducted and coded for maternal responsiveness and sensitivity, as well as maternal and child control behaviors. A large percentage of children and their families in this sample experienced traumatic life events during the first years of the child's life. Trauma exposure and mother-child interaction characteristics were associated with compromised cognitive and behavioral functioning in children. Further, the trauma characteristics of frequency, caretaker involvement, and child age were all important in understanding the full impact of trauma in young children.


Psychology, Clinical

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