The Impact of Early Childhood Trauma on Family and Marriage Relationships

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One of the major aspects to look at when researching trauma and how it can affect family and marriage relationships is what early childhood trauma can cause later, further down the line. When a parent or caregiver openly rejects the child or is not responsive to the needs of the child, it is possible for the child to develop an insecure-avoidant or dismissive avoidant attachment style (Brandt, A. (2017, August 1). This means that the child is likely to try and avoid close relationships with people.

However, if they do create a close relationship with someone, they will try and keep their partner at an emotional distance. They do not feel like they can securely share their feeling with anyone, so they try to hide their feelings. Along with this, they may keep secrets or shut down when someone tries to share their feelings with them. Unbeknownst to their partner, the person with this style of attachment secretly wants a close relationship and feels alone. However, they do not have the capability to form this kind of relationship (Brandt, A (2017, August 1).

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Attachment Styles as a Result of Childhood Trauma

When a child is faced with a parent or caregiver who consistently abuses or neglects the child, there is the possibility that the child will develop a fearful, avoidant, disorganized, disorientated attachment style (Brandt, A. (2017, August 1). With this style of attachment, the child will grow up to fear intimacy with people, but they will also fear being alone. They will have a hard time trusting people and will completely close themselves off from everyone emotionally. They will be terrified of rejection and will be uncomfortable showing emotion (Brandt, A. (2017, August 1).

There is one other kind of attachment style that can result from a parent or caregiver fluctuating between responding to the child and neglecting the child. From this kind of care, the child can develop an insecure, ambivalent, or anxious, preoccupied attachment style (Brandt, A. (2017, August 1). In this style, an adult can become clingy with their partner. They desire a lot of intimacy, and they are always watching to see if there is a change in their relationship. This will happen even to the point of paranoia.

The adult may also experience and show mood swings. This trauma can also end up affecting the partner and other family members as well. With many unhealthy attachment styles, it may be hard for the person to recognize their partner’s emotions and react to them in the proper way (Brandt, A. (2017, August 1). This can go for other family members as well. The adult with this attachment may also feel uncomfortable when their partner is mad or sad and has no clue how to react to these emotions. As a result of this, the adult may pull away or hold on too tight, harming the relationship even more (Brandt, A. (2017, August 1).


Another aspect to take into account is when trauma happens to a family as a whole (Victoria State Government (2015, March). After a family goes through a traumatic event, there are symptoms and reactions that are commonly elicited. There are feelings of being on high alert and being on watch in order to make sure nothing similar happens. It is common to feel emotionally numb, seemingly in a state of shock (Victoria State Government (2015, March). The family is likely to become emotional or upset and to feel tired or fatigued. Another common reaction is to become very protective of both friends and family. They may also not want to leave a certain place because of the fear that something else may happen (Victoria State Government (2015, March).


  1. “Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life” by Susan
  2. “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect” by Jonice Webb
  3. “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Nadine Burke Harris

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The Impact of Early Childhood Trauma on Family and Marriage Relationships. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from

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