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Child Molestation Trauma

Abstract: Typical reactions to trauma and psychological effects of child molestation may be different types of regressive behaviour, a change of social interaction, flashbacks or dissociative symptoms, etc.

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Child Molestation Trauma

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Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 27 Oct 2008.

What are typical reactions to traumatic events in childhood and the typical psychological effects of child molestation?


Reactions to trauma may appear immediately after the traumatic event or days or even weeks later. The symptoms of the traumatic reactions may be very individual and depend on the age of the child.

Very young children typically have a strong fear of being separated from their parents. They might show behaviours of earlier developmental stages (regressive behaviour) like thumb-sucking, bedwetting, or they cannot sleep alone in their beds anymore (fear of darkness)

Any change of social interaction to relatives or at kindergarten or school with withdrawal, disruptive behaviour or changes of the attentional functions (inability to pay attention) with additional sleeping problems or nightmares can be due to trauma. Some children only report somatic complaints or other bodily symptoms.

Older adolescents will describe flashbacks or dissociative symptoms. Social withdrawal and avoidance of any stimuli that are closely related to the trauma (traumatic trigger) are very typical for traumatic experiences. Some adolescents try to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to compensate for flashbacks and major emotional disturbances.

Many children or adolescents are afraid to talk about their traumatic experiences, especially if close relatives are involved. They may even feel extreme guilt over their failure to prevent the traumatic event.

These children and adolescents need intensive care and protection!

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