10 Myths about PTSD in Children

Many myths swirl around the topic of PTSD in children. This post looks at 10 myths and explains why they are untrue, and why hope exists for kids with PTSD.

Thank you for stopping by for the third installment in the series about PTSD in children, also known as childhood developmental trauma. Part 2 in the series provided definitions of trauma, PTSD, and childhood developmental trauma. With that basic understanding of what PTSD in children is, this post looks at what childhood trauma is not by providing a brief look at 10 common myths surrounding PTSD in children.

Myth #1: Only Soldiers Get PTSD

This is probably the most common myth about PTSD in children. But this statement can only be true if war alone causes trauma and if only soldiers are traumatized by war. But since many other events cause trauma and because many civilians living in war zones are traumatized, this myth is obviously untrue.

Myth #2: It’s Not PTSD: It’s Bad Parenting

Kids with PTSD often behave as though they were poorly parenting. And parental neglect or abuse can cause PTSD in children. So we tend generalize and pin the blame for behaviors on parents. But sometimes only one sibling raised in a secure, loving, and nurturing home exhibits disturbing behaviors. This scenario reminds us that while pinning the blame on parents is easy and convenient, doing so perpetuates another myth about PTSD in children.

Myth #3: It’s Not PTSD: It’s Willful Disobedience

Like the second myth, this one is based upon pinning the blame on someone–in this case on the child. Once again, the behaviors of kids with PTSD look a lot like willful disobedience or naughtiness. But traumatized children are not deliberately choosing to be naughty. Their behavior is an automatic survival response to something in their environment that triggers a traumatic memory. When that happens, they do whatever it takes to get away from whatever triggered their fear.

Myth #4: It’s Not PTSD: It’s Sin

This myth adds a faith-based spin to the previous one. PTSD behaviors look a lot like willful sin behaviors. But children with PTSD are not deliberately choosing to sin. As was mentioned before, their response is not a rational choice, but an irrational fear response to a perceived threat.

Myth #5: Kids Don’t Remember What Happened When They Were Babies

In fact children, and adults for that matter, do remember what happened when they were babies. But they remember pre-verbal events, from birth to about age 3, as implicit rather than as explicit memories. Implicit memories are stored as emotions, bodily sensations, behaviors, and perceptual interpretations. Explicit memory is what most people think of as memory. Explicit memories, the episodic movies of our lives, begin to kick in around age 2.  But implicit memories–both good and bad–are present from birth and help build the foundation of a person’s sense of security…or lack of it.

To read the rest of this post about PTSD in children, visit the Church4EveryChild blog.

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Part 1: Writing About PTSD Was Not on My Bucket List
Part 2: Childhood Trauma by Any Other Name Is Still Traumatic
Part 3: 10 Myths about PTSD in Children
Part 4: What Causes PTSD in Children
Part 5: A Look Inside the Brain’s Response to Childhood Trauma
Part 6: Why the Spotlight Is on PTSD in Children
Part 7: Childhood PTSD Symptoms in Tots, Teens, and In Between
Part 8: Why and How Childhood PTSD Is often Misdiagnosed
Part 9: Effective Treatment of PTSD in Children
Part 10: How to Prevent PTSD in Traumatized Children
Part 11: How Parents Can Advocate Effectively for Traumatized Children
Part 12: 4 Reasons Traumatized Kids Need Mentally Healthy Parents
Part 13: Clinging to Faith While Parenting Children with PTSD

Many myths swirl around the topic of PTSD in children. This post looks at 10 myths and explains why they are untrue, and why hope exists for kids with PTSD.

2 Comments

  1. September 16, 2016    

    “But sometimes only one sibling raised in a secure, loving, and nurturing home exhibits disturbing behaviors.”
    Sometimes parents act very differently towards different children. Just because they have the same parents doesn’t mean they get the same parenting. This is especially true if the children are different genders or have some other difference (eg one child disabled, the other not; one child LGTB and the other straight, etc).
    Plus, some kids are more sensitive than others, or an event hits them at a more sensitive developmental period. (Eg a parent who develops an addiction when her kids are 1, 3 and 5 will have a more adverse effect on the younger siblings.)
    I get what you’re intending to say, and yeah, PTSD in children isn’t always the parent’s fault. But differences between siblings don’t always mean that the parents aren’t responsible.

  2. September 16, 2016    

    Ettina, it is true that parents don’t treat all siblings in the same way. But in that case, the children haven’t been raised in a “secure, loving, and nurturing home.” Because such favoritism isn’t loving and doesn’t provide the security children need. So in a case like that PTSD can be caused by poor parenting. Thanks for your input. Jolene

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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