The Paradox of Trauma: Can Experiencing Trauma in Childhood Strengthen One’s Ability to Endure Adversity in Young Adulthood?


Authors: Anam Khan, Ph.D.(c)

Category: Meaning Conference Proceedings: Student Winners

Pages: 5

IJEPP Issue: Vol. 11 no. 1

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Before the advancement of positive psychology, exposure to adverse life events were typically associated with negative effects on mental health and well-being. Over the last few decades, resilience research has shown that it is possible to adapt and recover from traumatic experiences. Interestingly, in some cases such occurrences may even result in advantages for mental health and well-being such as strengthening people’s resistance to later environmental hazards. This phenomenon is true for those have who faced moderate adversities and is referred to variously as steeling effect, toughness, or hardiness. The present paper explores this capacity among young adults in India who reported a history of childhood adversity. The cases discussed are part of a larger investigation on resilience and childhood trauma where participants (N=1040) were screened for the presence of adversity in childhood and display of resilience in adulthood. 50 individuals (age 18-46) who met the criteria were interviewed. Among these, the narratives of early life adversities of several participants revealed an inoculation effect that played a protective role in dealing with stressors in adulthood. Ambiguities concerning the phenomenon are discussed and the findings are reviewed in light of relevant literature.