It is commonly known that some adverse childhood and past experiences have long-lasting effects, sometimes till the end of the adulthood period. This paper discusses whether traumatic life events, particularly exposure to traumatic experiences over a life span, are related to identity formation. Based on the findings, certain types of trauma can, in fact, affect one’s identity.
Although trauma might cause some physical and mental health issues, it cannot directly lead to the type of identity a person carries. In their study to uncover the connections between complex trauma exposure and identification features, Truskauskaite-Kuneviciene et al. (2020) contrasted the ratios of research group members with trauma experience and the non-exposure to trauma in identity accounts. The study results showed that, for the most part, the allocation of research units across identification profiles with and without past trauma exposure cases did not deviate considerably. However, dispersions were present when the researchers conducted another study examining participants with severe mistreatment and sexual abuse experiments. This means that the more severe trauma is, the more negatively it affects identity.
Another study examining one adolescent has identified the connection between cumulative trauma and negative consequences. Namely, Ranieri (2021) has conducted psychoanalysis psychotherapy and found that the cumulative trauma has led to adverse results on the individual’s sense of self, which was the result of an atrophied sense of place and place identity. However, psychotherapy has had positive results on the adolescent’s sense of self once the intervention was in place. Thus, the results show that trauma does, in fact, affect identity.
To sum up, the scholarly evidence shows that trauma does not necessarily result in identity formation or modification. However, there can be circumstances when the nature of trauma is too severe and unbearable, making a person confuse her sense of self. Therefore, one takeaway from this paper would be that people should analyze their past negative experiences with professional counselors or at least on their own. Such an analysis would help remove the blocks caused by the past and improve the quality of life.
Ranieri, F. (2021). Trauma and place identity: The breaking and repairing of place attachment in the mind of an adolescent with developmental trauma. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 47(3), 338–356.
Truskauskaite-Kuneviciene, I., Brailovskaia, J., Kamite, Y., Petrauskaite, G., Margraf, J., & Kazlauskas, E. (2020). Does trauma shape identity? Exploring the links between lifetime trauma exposure and identity status in emerging adulthood. Frontiers in Psychology, 11.