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Chapter 14 - Evolutionary Perspectives on Childhood Trauma

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2022

Riadh Abed
Mental Health Tribunals, Ministry of Justice, UK
Paul St John-Smith
Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, UK
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Throughout human evolutionary history, infants and children have been dependent on adult caregivers for survival. The care that adults give is greatly influenced by prevailing conditions, including the availability of food and their social contacts, and also by their own experience of care. We use an evolutionary perspective to discuss possible reasons why children may suffer trauma at the hands of their parents and consider how children have adapted in response to such trauma to maximise their chances of survival in order to reach reproductive age and produce their own offspring. We examine how child maltreatment might differ at the hands of mothers, fathers and step-parents and discuss parent–offspring conflict, life history theory, attachment theory and differential susceptibility to help explain the complexity of childhood trauma. We end with recommendations for clinical practice.

Evolutionary Psychiatry
Current Perspectives on Evolution and Mental Health
, pp. 214 - 227
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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