Trauma-Exposed Infants and Toddlers: A Review of Impacts and Evidence-Based Interventions

Keywords: trauma, infant mental health, early childhood, attachment, development, intervention


Infants and toddlers are exposed to abuse and neglect at disproportionate rates compared to other children, setting a trajectory for disrupted developmental processes and increased vulnerability to future traumatic exposure. Social workers encounter trauma–exposed young children across a number of systems, including but not limited to early childcare, family physical and mental health, court, and child welfare. It benefits social workers to have a working understanding of current research related to the bio–psycho–social impact of trauma on infants and young children and an awareness of current, research-driven interventions that can support young, at–risk children and families. This article reviews trauma-impacted development throughout the first two years of life with a discussion of current research exploring attachment and brain development and then discusses caregiver–child based interventions that work to repair disrupted attachment patterns, repair impaired regulatory processes, and return the caregiver–child relationship to a healthy developmental path. 


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