one extreme incident or a series of intense, but less extreme, incidents. 63 All of the individualized
factors the Miller Court considered in regarding the juveniles (the “pathological background”
which included family violence, physical abuse, and parental substance abuse) 64 were adverse
childhood experiences that would qualify as potentially traumatic events.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition
(DSM- 5), in its definition of one type of trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), requires
“[e]xposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.” 65 The DSM- 5 lists
examples of traumatic events, such as first responders collecting human remains or police officers
having been repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse. 66 Such exposure might also have an
impact on those who work in juvenile courts and repeatedly face the details of child abuse.
B. The Experience
The second essential factor of trauma, the experience of the event, is a subjective factor.
The child may have an intense, negative experience of the event at the time it occurs or find that it
continues to be upsetting later. 67 Children can cope with many day-to-day problems. 68 In fact,
learning to cope with daily stressors can actually make a child stronger and more resilient. 69
Some events, however, can be overwhelming. The emotional experience of an event will vary for
two people facing the same event or for the same person over time. By way of example, a five-
year-old reacts differently to an event than he will when he is fifteen or fifty years old. 70 This
could include a person that is not immediately upset by an event at the time it occurs (for
example, a young child who does not fully realize what happened), yet may become quite upset
when he or she gets older and has a better understanding of what occurred. 71 Regardless of when
it occurs, a key component of the traumatic experiences “is that they can overwhelm a person’s
capacity to cope, and elicit intense feelings such as fear, terror, helplessness, hopelessness, and
C. The Effects
63 JUDITH HERMAN, TRAUMA AND RECOVERY: THE AFTERMATH OF VIOLENCE—FROM DOMESTIC ABUSE TO POLITICAL TERROR 3
(BasicBooks 2d ed. 1997).
64 Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2467-69 (2012).
65 AM. PSYCHIATRIC ASS’N, DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS 271 (5th ed. 2013) [hereinafter DSM-
67 Id. The DSM- 5 definition of PTSD requires “[n]egative alterations in cognitions and mood associated with the traumatic event(s),
beginning or worsening after the traumatic event(s) occurred.” Id. It is unclear why some people are resilient and can tolerate
extremely negative events while others go on to develop traumatic symptoms or effects.
68 See Bruce E. Compas et al., Coping with Stress During Childhood and Adolescence: Problems, Progress, and Potential in Theory
and Research, 127 PHYCHOL. BULL. 87, 91 (2001) (describing the development of coping abilities of children and adolescents); Karen
Salmon & Richard A. Bryant, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children: The Influence of Developmental Factors, 22 CLINICAL
PSYCHOL. REV. 163, 171-72 (2002).
69 “[R]esilience is the capacity to maintain or regain adaptive functioning in the face of adverse conditions.” Mark W. Fraser & Mary
A. Terzian, Risk and Resilience in Child Development: Principles and Strategies of Practice, in CHILD WELFARE FOR THE 21ST
CENTURY: A HANDBOOK OF PRACTICES, POLICIES, AND PROGRAMS 55, 55 (Gerald P. Mallon & Peg McCartt Hess eds., 2005).
70 See What Is Child Traumatic Stress?, supra note 59, at 2 (explaining that “not every child who experiences a traumatic event will
develop symptoms of child traumatic stress”); Vandervort et al., supra note 62, at 3 (“Each child experiences potentially traumatic
events differently. Abuse or neglect that will traumatize one child, leaving him or her severely impacted, may not be trauma-inducing
71 For example, at adoption, a baby will not understand the significance of the event at the time, but when that child reaches
adolescence and is dealing with identity issues, the adoption may take on new significance.
72 KRISTINE BUFFINGTON ET AL., NAT’L CHILD TRAUMATIC STRESS NETWORK, TEN THINGS EVERY JUVENILE COURT JUDGE SHOULD
KNOW ABOUT TRAUMA AND DELINQUENCY 3 (2008), http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/trauma_20bulletin.pdf; see
Frank W. Putnam, The Impact of Trauma on Child Development, 57 JUV. & FAM. CT. J., no. 1, Winter 2006, at 1, 5-7.