Childhood Trauma’s Impact on Adulthood

Topic: Psychology and Personality
Words: 3309 Pages: 12


Psychological issues in general and those related to personality development have long interested the general public. Multiple publications in the popular media have gained significant interest, which is why it is relevant to analyze the ideas delivered to the general public through the perspective of personality theories. The article selected for this project is a blog article published on a medical website called Better Help. The article is entitled “Trauma in adults: How does childhood trauma affect adulthood?” and was published in May of 2022 (Komay, 2022). The article covers the issues of traumatic childhood experiences and how they impact human life in adulthood.

Trauma in adults

The author of the article focuses on the particularities and causes of childhood trauma which have a long-term endured negative impact on a person during later stages in life. In particular, Komay (2022) identifies such causes of childhood trauma as neglect, mistreatment, and abuse, which most frequently lead to impairment in coping mechanisms for dealing with adult life challenges. Besides abuse and maltreatment, the author generalizes that the overall traumatic experiences from childhood that create a victim’s pattern of behavior in an individual might be damaging to one’s personality and life choices. Indeed, the status of a victim imposes bad emotional health, low self-esteem, incapability to form meaningful relationships, and other psychological issues (Komay, 2022). Moreover, life choices such as marital life, career, education, and other aspects of adulthood might be hindered by the insecurities developed under the influence of childhood victimization. The author of the article emphasizes the need to cope with childhood trauma in a timely and professional manner to avoid negative adulthood consequences. For that purpose, the article contains practical pieces of advice on how to overcome childhood trauma.

The relevance of this article to the present moment is validated by the increased attention of the general public to the consequential relations between childhood and adulthood in terms of psychological patterns and personality development. Moreover, an elevated level of concern about child neglect and the urgency of addressing this issue to contribute to the nation’s psychological health and well-being contributes to the article’s relevance. In addition, since the publication is a practice-directed self-help list of tips for adults to deal with their childhood trauma, it is implied that the popularized mindfulness and well-being practices motivate people to resolve their psychological problems. Therefore, the article meets the needs of contemporary readers and integrates psychological findings to help people overcome challenges by identifying their causes and addressing them with a rational approach.

The analyzed article is directly related to personality psychology since it identifies the cause-and-effect patterns in the ways human personality develops across the lifespan. Since the author of the article emphasizes the inevitability of childhood experiences’ effects on adult life, it suggests the deeply rooted links between early experiences and personality particularities during the whole life of an individual (Komay, 2022). Thus, personality psychology is essential within the context of this article due to the author’s focus on traits and worldview changes under the influence of childhood experiences. The article provides some key conclusions about the inherent connection between the upbringing particularities and relationships in childhood with the ways adults deal with life challenges. Indeed, the article answers the questions concerning the importance of positive childhood experiences for happy adulthood, as well as educates the readers on the coping strategies to overcome childhood trauma. However, some of the unanswered questions that remain include the theoretical validation of the author’s assumptions and the effectiveness of the suggested coping strategies for enduring psychological well-being despite being traumatized as a child.

Research Article Application

The research article that plies to the analyzed popular media article is a recently published study on the relationship between childhood experiences and loneliness in late adulthood. This article was published in an online academic journal PLoS One in May 2022 under the title “Loneliness among older adults in Europe: The relative importance of early and later life conditions” (Guthmuller, 2022). The research article reports an original study in the field of personality psychology, which justifies its applicability to the identified media article.

The purpose of the research study is to identify how late adulthood experiences of loneliness depend on childhood circumstances. The researcher intends to investigate multiple factors that influence an individual’s feelings of loneliness as a senior. Moreover, given the attention of the researcher to the multitude of factors contributing to the feeling of loneliness in later adulthood, the variances of personality types and country-specific issues were included for measurement (Guthmuller, 2022). Thus, the study aims to establish whether the circumstances in which people of different personality types grow and develop as children directly impact loneliness in adulthood.

The research questions in the study were related to the overall dependence of loneliness in later adulthood on adverse childhood circumstances and its particular variance depending on personality traits and other factors. To answer these questions, Guthmuller (2022) used a Survey on Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) conducted among 50+ years old citizens of 27 European countries and Israel since 2004. This survey data on 17 countries were used in combination with the questionnaire SHARELIFE on past experiences of 50+ adults of the same countries. The sample included 27,623 observations, which were processed using the statistical analysis approach consisting of descriptive and multivariate analyses.

The results of the study showed that childhood experiences and circumstances such as having close relationships with parents, forming early friendships, and feeling secure and trusting have an impact on feelings of loneliness in later adulthood. Indeed, people who lacked close relationships with parents or friends as children experienced loneliness more frequently regardless of their personality type (Guthmuller, 2022). The conclusions made by the researcher imply that it is important to provide social support for aging adults in order to mitigate their feelings of loneliness despite the differences in personality types. These conclusions are appropriate and well-grounded on the theoretical pillars of the attachment theory and the evidence retrieved during the study. The author neither overestimated nor underestimated the findings and conclusions, being objective and unbiased in the interpretation of the study findings.

The key strength of the study is its scope which includes representatives of 17 countries as well as the multitude of factors affecting loneliness. Indeed, to support the hypothesis about the leading cause of loneliness in adulthood is childhood circumstances, the researcher investigated the influence of other factors informed by literature. Therefore, the study provides a strong and substantial evidential background to support its conclusions. As for the weaknesses, the procedural and accuracy-related issues might be addressed due to the potential for subjectivity in recalling one’s childhood memories, which might have influenced the outcomes of the study. Indeed, given the self-reported nature of the study methodology, including survey and questionnaire use, the study might be weak in terms of information accuracy. However, the large sample and the overall psychological direction of the research validate the presence of perceived experiences being appropriate for the study.

This research study significantly contributes to the understanding of personality development and the correlation between lifespan advancement’s dependence on prior experiences. In particular, the study provides clear and justifiable evidence of the far-reaching consequences of childhood experiences in late adulthood. These findings illustrate the fundamental role of upbringing and early social interactions in the forming of attitudes and life events across the lifespan. Moreover, the study is based on the arguments of the attachment theory, which holds that individuals’ socialization patterns are embedded in childhood relationships (Guthmuller, 2022). However, it reconfirms the assumptions of other theories, such as Eric Erikson’s theory of Psychosocial Development and Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytical Theory, which emphasize the core relationships between childhood and adulthood (Allen, 2016). Thus, the analyzed research article expands and deepens one’s understanding of personality psychology and informs practices for improving human well-being based on the acquired evidence.

Guthmuller’s (2022) study is directly connected with Komay’s (2022) article since it informs the mechanisms of adulthood psychological consequences of childhood experiences. Indeed, Guthmuller (2022) refers primarily to relationships and their impairment in early childhood as the main factor of loneliness in adulthood. This evidence-based relationship between the two variables (childhood experience and adulthood well-being) supports Komay’s (2022) explanation of the enduring adverse effects of traumatic childhood experiences on adults’ well-being and decision-making. Thus, the research article provides a theoretically and evidentially grounded validation of the personality development assertions presented in the popular media article.

The conclusions of the research study align with the main message of the media article since both sources theoretically explain the connection between childhood circumstances and experiences in adulthood. Moreover, Guthmuller (2022) emphasizes the need of integrating the research findings into the practical social support provision solutions for older adults to mitigate their loneliness. Similarly, the media article does not merely unveil the correlation between childhood and adulthood for personality development but provides practical advice on how to resolve childhood trauma.

Connection to Personality Theory

Theory One: Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory

Freud’s accounts of personality were based on his structural views heavily reliant on the subconscious processes predetermining human development and behavior. Overall, Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory is based on psychological determinism, holding that everything in human development is inherently dependent on particular factors without a chance of accidental occurrences happening (Allen, 2016). According to this theory, the human personality consists of three essential components, Id, Ego, and Superego. Id is responsible for unconscious seeking of pleasure and needs satisfaction without identifying harm or benefit for a person. The Ego is a conscious part of a personality that is based on the Id but is capable of controlling the Id’s desires through rationalization (Allan, 2016). Finally, Superego represents the connection of a personality to society, which is characterized by morality and decision-making.

This theory explains personality as a complex phenomenon in which these three forces coexist, influencing each other. While the Id represents instincts, the Ego regulates responses to instincts, and Superego establishes the connection to the social environment (Allan, 2016). Moreover, Freud’s approach to personality development was based on the interpretation of the continuous struggle between the three forces of personality. Overall, the stages of personality development were connected to sexual development by Freud with the emphasis on the impact of desires on human behavior.

Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory offers an alternative understanding of the analyzed article from popular media. Since this theory is particularly reliant on the unconscious, the explanation of the connection between childhood trauma and adulthood experiences in terms of career choices, relationships, decision-making, and psychological health might be viewed as unconscious. In other words, according to Freud’s theory, the traumatic experience of one’s childhood leaves an unconscious trace on the Id, Ego, and Superego without conscious understanding of the individual’s adulthood behavior’s dependence on trauma. In other words, it is not the lack of coping skills to overcome the trauma that complicates adults’ lives but rather some inevitable unconscious neuroses that predetermine one’s behavior. The value of this theory for personality psychology understanding is in its alternative view on the interaction between conscious and unconscious aspects of human nature. In particular, when applied to trauma, this theory allows for explaining the persistence of attitude and behavior patterns at the level of instinct regulation and impaired socialization.

Theory Two: Maslow’s Needs Theory

Maslow’s Needs Theory is a conceptual perspective on personality psychology from the point of view of needs satisfaction enabling individuals’ growth. In particular, this theory holds that for a person to develop and grow throughout their lifespan, they must meet their needs in a hierarchical manner, from basic to advanced (Fergeus et al., 2019). The theory is based on five sets of needs represented in the form of a pyramid: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

The basis of the pyramid is the physiological needs, such as food, sleep, and water, without the satisfaction of which one is unable to move upward along the pyramid. The second level of needs is safety, which is inherent in shelter and protection; the third level involved the sense of belonging to a group and the feeling of being loved (Fergeus et al., 2019). The fourth level is the need for self-esteem, which is built on accomplishments; finally, self-actualization is the ultimate need, which is realized through achieving one’s full potential.

Thus, without the previous levels of needs being met, it is impossible to pursue the higher ranking ones. Such an explanation of personality development presented by Maslow’s theory applies to the article from popular media and explains the connection between childhood neglect or mistreatment and adulthood failures. Without their basic needs of food availability, safety, or belonging in childhood, people with traumatic experiences fail to improve their self-esteem and achieve self-actualization in adulthood. In such a manner, traumatic experiences deteriorate the fundamental basis for well-being and fulfillment. This theory contributes to the understanding of personality psychology by emphasizing the social nature of personality, which might be either benefited or harmed by the environment, as demonstrated by the article on childhood trauma.

Theory Three: Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory

Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development is a framework that views the lifespan development process as a consecutive stream of stages following one another. Each stage results either in a successful obtainment of a particular trait or a failure to obtain one which leads to adverse personality outcomes at later stages of life. The conflict between personality, societal, and development-related processes during each stage requires some achievements from an individual to ensure their growth (Darling-Fisher, 2019). Thus, personality development occurs based on the intersection of an individual and society.

According to this theory, there are eight stages of psychosocial development. They include trust vs. mistrust (birth – one year old), autonomy vs. shame (1-3 years), initiative vs. guilt (3-6 years), and industriousness vs. inferiority (6-12 years). The rest of the stages that occur after childhood are identity vs. confusion (12-18), intimacy vs. isolation (19-40), generativity vs. stagnation (40-65), and integrity vs. despair (65 and older) (Allan, 2016). Thus, for example, if a person does not develop trust during the first year of life, they will live in mistrust throughout the lifespan.

This theory helps explain the issues raised in the article from popular media on the effects of childhood trauma on adults’ accomplishments and struggles in socializing and self-actualizing. In particular, since the first four stages of psychosocial development, according to Erikson’s theory, belong to the childhood period of life, it is necessary for a person to develop such traits as trust, autonomy, initiative, and industriousness (Darling-Fisher, 2019). With traumatic experiences during these stages, a person is likely to fail at developing these traits and instead lack coping skills and might be characterized by mistrust, shame or doubt, guilt, and inferiority (Allan, 2019). Therefore, it is important to prevent childhood trauma to ensure healthy personality development throughout the lifespan. This theory contributes to the understanding of personality development by structuring the stages of life with the identification of priorities necessary for growth.

Personal Relevance

While working on this personality development project, I selected the topic that seemed most interesting and appealing to me. The presence of childhood experiences in adulthood is one of the concerns that have worried me for a long time. The article on childhood trauma and its impact on the opportunity to lead healthy adult life was a piece of information that was likely to answer my questions. In particular, I was interested in the degree to which our adulthood depends on childhood and if it was possible to mitigate any adverse implications of negative childhood incidents. In my childhood, I was not neglected or mistreated; however, I recall traumatic socializing experiences when my early childhood friendships and adolescent socialization were challenging. After that, I felt like those failures obstructed my ability to form meaningful relationships in adulthood. Thus, the issues of relationship forming obstacles, decision-making, and feelings of isolation presented in the article as outcomes of childhood trauma resembled my experiences to some degree.

There are multiple opportunities for learning in the context of the analyzed article since it unveils a wide spectrum of theoretical perspectives on personality development and lifespan growth. In particular, I learned that many psychological theories of personality agree on the long-term consequences of childhood experiences later in life. For example, Freud’s, Maslow’s, and Erikson’s theories hold that the incidents experienced in early childhood or adolescence predetermine life attitudes, worldview, and behavioral patterns of people in adulthood (Allan. 2016). Moreover, I reestablished the core relevance of society in the formation of a personality since it has been particularly emphasized in the media article, the research study articles, and the theories. While the opposition between nature and nurture that personality psychology investigates in general persists, it might be implied that social factors are essential for personality development. Indeed, the integration of negative early childhood relationships with parents into the lifespan psychological view allows for identifying patterns in the formation of attitudes toward relationships as a subst antial part of life.

While the article is educational and insightful, it helped me form new opinions and generate research interest. Before completing this project, my understanding of personality theories was lacking practical application; in other words, I did not perceive the theories as explanations of particular events in my life. However, after working with the article and analyzing it with the help of additional research and theory application, I practiced using theories as tools for conceptualizing and explaining real-life events. Moreover, the article challenged my forming a new opinion about the inevitability of negative outcomes of childhood trauma. I have always perceived this phenomenon as an intrinsically damaging factor in a person’s life that is hardly curable. However, the article demonstrated that it is possible to mitigate the adverse outcomes by means of trauma overcoming, practice, and coping skills development. Thus, this project helped me form a positivist attitude toward overcoming trauma for well-being and happiness regardless of past experiences.

Apart from the educational and insightful impact this article had on me, I managed to obtain specific practical lessons on how personality research and theories might help me in my life. Now that I know from theories and the research that it is encouraged not only to address childhood trauma but also to find reasons for adulthood failures in childhood experiences, I am prepared. I know that to deal with my socialization issue and challenges to form relationships, I should revisit my childhood experiences and analyze them in the context of my present life.

Furthermore, the practical value of the personality theories and the article I have analyzed in this project is in the pieces of advice and tips on how to overcome trauma to improve my well-being today. For example, I might use the advice to learn from the past and concentrate on some extracurricular activities to minimize the pressure of failure and facilitate my wellness. Moreover, one particular application of theory helped me integrate a practical use of personality psychology into my life. More specifically, the hierarchy of needs presented by Maslow is a valuable approach to analyzing one’s growth based on the need satisfaction review.


In conclusion, there are several concerns that require further research and clarification to better understand the application of personality development theories. Firstly, the coexistence of several theories of personality challenges my understanding of the core factors predetermining the growth of a personality. In other words, I need to deepen my understanding of the differences between the theories to identify the ones that best explain the process of personality advancement. Secondly, the ambiguity between the conscious and unconscious causes of the connection between childhood trauma and adulthood experiences revealed within the theory application process leaves some questions regarding the dominance of either conscious or unconscious. Thus, the work on this project was a fulfilling and insightful experience that has encouraged my further learning of personality psychology.


Allen, B. P. (2016). Personality theories: Development, growth, and diversity. Routledge.

Darling-Fisher, C. S. (2019). Application of the modified Erikson psychosocial stage inventory: 25 years in review. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 41(3), 431-458.

Fergeus, J., Humphreys, C., Harvey, C., & Herrman, H. (2019). The needs of carers: Applying a hierarchy of needs to a foster and kinship care context. Adoption & Fostering, 43(2), 155-168.

Guthmuller, S. (2022). Loneliness among older adults in Europe: The relative importance of early and later life conditions. PLoS ONE 17(5): e0267562. Web.

Komay, M. (2022). Trauma in adults: How does childhood trauma affect adulthood? BetterHelp. Web.

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