‘Relational trauma’ is about the way in which an infant/child can be traumatised, and develop strategies to cope, as a result of their early interactions with one or more caregivers.
Traumatisation may occur as a result of unresolved trauma in the parent. This past trauma adversely affects the parent’s mental states (i.e. state of mind). Their perception of their baby can be distorted, and may therefore affect how they respond to their baby (e.g. feeling rejected). This impacts on their capacity to hold their baby in mind, and enjoy the relationship.
There are evidence-based ways of working with traumatised parents. The aim is to improve the interaction and break the intergenerational cycle, to reduce the potential for long-lasting difficulty, and promote secure attachment.
Relational trauma in infancy refers to a situation in which the infant is traumatised by the interaction with the caregiver. This may occur as a result of unresolved trauma in the caregiver, adversely affecting both the caregiver’s mental states (i.e. their mind) and consequently their interaction with their baby. This is one of the key ways in which trauma is passed from one generation to the next (known as the intergenerational transmission of trauma).
AIMH Best Practice Guidance 6 – Relational Trauma in Infancy, June 2019 examines what the evidence reveals about the way in which parental unresolved trauma can affect the interaction with the infant, the ways in which such interaction can be identified, and the evidence regarding effective dyadic models of treatment.