The experience of childhood interpersonal trauma can interrupt normal development, and impair the usual acquisition of self-abilities, which in turn disrupt psychological, and relational health. The self-capacities are grouped according to a tripartite typology : identity development, interpersonal relationships, and emotional regulation.

Identity development : the experience of interpersonal trauma diverts the victim’s attention from their internal states, the curious exploration of the world, and the construction of a rich internal world, to focus on the evaluation of the danger in the environment. Survivors are likely to develop a sense of inner emptiness, leaving them vulnerable to external norms, and judgments from others.

Interpersonal relationships : interpersonal trauma can lead to chronic negative expectations, and perceptions about the possibility of feeling safe in a relationship with another human being, especially within an intimate relationship. The individual, for example, may seem to overreact in his marital relationship when his reactions stem from his traumatic experience.

Emotional regulation : trauma exposes the victim to events that cause too much distress to be handled by their own strategies of regulation. Prolonged exposure can also prevent the development of these abilities. However, poor or damaged internal resources of survivors increase the risk of being overwhelmed by their affects (i.e., low tolerance for distress), and of adopting inappropriate avoidance strategies to manage their emotions.

For more information, see:

Bigras, N., Godbout, N., & Briere, J. (2015). Child sexual abuse, sexual anxiety, and sexual satisfaction: The role of self-capacitiesJournal of Child Sexual Abuse: Research, Treatment, & Program Innovations for Victims, Survivors, & Offenders, 24(5), 464-483. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2015.104218

Briere, J., Hodges, M., & Godbout, N. (2010). Traumatic stress, affect dysregulation, and dysfunctional avoidance: A structural equation model. Journal of traumatic Stress, 23, 767-774.