National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation

Types of Traumatic Experiences

The National Traumatic Stress Network has strived to provide definitions of types of traumatic events; differentiating them from one another based on the event, who is involved, and the interpretation of law. Below are brief definitions to capture the core of each type of trauma.

  1. Sexual Abuse or Assault: Actual or attempted sexual contact, exposure to age-inappropriate sexual material or environments, sexual exploitation, unwanted or coercive sexual contact.
  2. Physical Abuse or Assault: Actual or attempted infliction of physical pain with or without use of an object or weapon and including use of severe corporeal punishment.
  3. Emotional Abuse/Psychological Maltreatment: Acts of commission against a minor child, other than physical or sexual abuse, that caused or could have caused conduct, cognitive, affective or other mental disturbance, such as verbal abuse, emotional abuse, excessive demands on a child's performance that may lead to negative self-image and disturbed behavior. Acts of omission against a minor child that caused or could have caused conduct, cognitive, affective or other mental disturbance, such as emotional neglect or intentional social deprivation.
  4. Neglect: Failure by the child victim's caretaker(s) to provide needed, age-appropriate care although financially able to do so, or offered financial or other means to do so, including physical neglect, medical neglect, or educational neglect.
  5. Serious Accident or Illness/Medical Procedure: Unintentional injury or accident, having a physical illness or experiencing medical procedures that are extremely painful and/or life threatening.
  6. Witness to Domestic Violence: Exposure to emotional abuse, actual/attempted physical or sexual assault, or aggressive control perpetrated between a parent/caretaker and another adult in the child victim's home environment or perpetrated by an adolescent against one or more adults in the child victim's home environment.
  7. Victim/Witness to Community Violence: Extreme violence in the community, including exposure to gang-related violence.
  8. School Violence: Violence that occurs in a school setting, including, but not limited to school shootings, bullying, interpersonal violence among classmates, and classmate suicide.
  9. Natural or Manmade Disasters: Major accident or disaster that is an unintentional result of a manmade or natural event.
  10. Forced Displacement: Forced relocation to a new home due to political reasons, generally including political asylees or immigrants fleeing political persecution.
  11. War/Terrorism/Political Violence: Exposure to acts of war/terrorism/political violence including incidents such bombing, shooting, looting, or accidents that are a result of terrorist activity as well as actions of individuals acting in isolation if they are considered political in nature.
  12. Victim/Witness to Extreme Personal/Interpersonal Violence: Includes extreme violence by or between individuals including exposure to homicide, suicide and other similar extreme events.
  13. Traumatic Grief/Separation: Death of a parent, primary caretaker or sibling, abrupt and/or unexpected, accidental or premature death or homicide of a close friend, family member, or other close relative; abrupt, unexplained and/or indefinite separation from a parent, primary caretaker or sibling due to circumstances beyond the child victim's.
  14. System-Induced Trauma: Traumatic removal from the home, traumatic foster placement, sibling separation, or multiple placements in a short amount of time.

(Adapted from National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2008 - detailed descriptions)




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Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development National Center for Effective Mental Health Consultation