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9 Major Causes Of Trauma In Teenagers: Why Parents Should Know This

People oftentimes rush to explain that pain is inevitable, the world is cruel, and nothing in life is free. Yet all of these statements are taken easily for granted and bespeak a position of not being responsible over another human being’s life and wellbeing. If you have a kid, you want them to be safe. You want them to be happy. Even if those things seem impossible, you want it.

And if people try to simplify the world as painful, cruel, and unfair, then you probably don’t want to accept that as the final word on the matter. Dealing with the hurt the world can do to your child is not easy, but it is far from impossible, and it’s something people have studied.

Today we are going to go over the 9 major things that cause trauma in the life of your teenager. Not everyone will run into all of them, but there is a good chance they will run into at least one.

And when that happens, you need to be ready.


It is important not to judge the validity of a teenager’s trauma. Exclusion might not seem like the world-shattering event that the word “trauma” promises. But it can certainly impact the self-worth and decision making of a teenager. And that is trauma by any definition of the world.

Exclusion usually comes from judgments of merit. If your teenager is not good enough at baseball, they will not be allowed on the baseball team, for instance. The solution is not to open up the baseball team to all skill levels, but to either find your teenager a place where they do belong or else make one—such as a baseball team for people who aren’t as competitive.

Physical Violence

As far as trauma causes go, this is a pretty obvious one. What might not be so obvious is that your teenager does not have to receive the violence to be traumatized by it. Even if they are adjacent to it, affected by it indirectly, or even committing the violent act, it can hurt them.

If your teenager is exposed to violence in any way, examine their reaction to it closely. They might be affected by it more than even they realize.

Emotional Violence

While physical violence is traumatizing in obvious ways, emotional violence can impact a person’s feelings in much more subtle ways. After all, our culture regularly tells people to simply not be affected by being made fun of, criticized, gossiped about, or yelled at.

But that perspective ignores the fact that having an environment of emotional violence means that a person needs to constantly have their guard up. Constantly being forced to either accept ridicule or ignore everyone else will turn a person into a misanthrope, which is a form of trauma.


Imagine a school with a particularly strict system of punishments, wherein students were penalized for misbehavior by being separated from other students.

This kind of experience can be traumatizing for a teenager in much the same way that exclusion is traumatizing. The teenager feels othered, as if there is something wrong with them that they are too dumb or flawed to see. And that can have a traumatic affect on self-esteem.

Domestic Conflicts

One of the most common causes of trauma in teenagers is problems at home. Most of the time this means arguments between parents. Not with parents—but between them.

Of course, arguments with parents can be bad too. But at least in those circumstances the teenager has agency in the situation. When it is arguments between parents the teenager has no choice but to listen as emotional violence unfolds between their caretakers.

Financial Troubles

You can easily fold this into domestic conflicts, since the most experience a teenager is likely to have with financial troubles is their parents arguing about money. It has to be said, however, that many teenagers come from poor families. Reminders of their poverty can be traumatizing.

A teenager who is chronically unable to pay for food, can’t participate in events that cost money, or is always wearing the oldest, cheapest, or dirtiest clothes will inevitably reflect on it.

Natural Disasters

These are more common in some areas of the country than others, but their intensity and how sudden they can be will almost always be traumatizing to some degree. Any teenager who has lost something or someone to a tornado will feel anxious towards a cloudy sky, for instance.

Death in the Family

Since we are on the topic, let’s tackle one of the big ones. Losing someone is always hard. But for teenagers, loss in those formative years is oftentimes their first interaction with death at all.

One can argue that this is the most necessary trauma of the bunch, but it is important to remain sympathetic to the teenager. Yes, their little brother might be fated to die like everyone else. But that does not mean being negatively affected by the loss of a little brother is wrong.

Sexual Assault

There are so many layers to understanding the damage sexual assault does that it is difficult to talk about from any particular angle. It makes the teenager feel powerless, hurts their ability to trust people, and at the same time isolates them.

In a society where people are expected to deal with bullies themselves, it is easy for an inexperienced teenager to blame themselves for being in the position they were in when they got sexually assaulted. Therefore, it is important to side with them unconditionally.


Teenagers deal with far more trauma than most people think. They have little control over their lives and are exposed to great danger at the same time that they are just forming their identities.

So, be sympathetic to them. Listen to them. And take their emotions seriously even as you are aware that they are temporary. If you need any more help or advice, visit us at

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