Trauma in the preverbal period. Symptoms, memories, and developmental impact

Psychoanal Study Child. 1995:50:122-49. doi: 10.1080/00797308.1995.11822399.


In this paper, five children who experienced traumas during the preverbal period are described. The clinical presentations are oriented around three questions: (1) What are the expectable symptomatic reactions of preverbal infants to trauma? (2) To what extent and in what forms are preverbal traumatic experiences retained in memory? and (3) Does trauma in the preverbal period have enduring effects? In these five preverbal infants, symptomatology consistent with typical posttraumatic diagnostic criteria was observed. The clinical material also suggested that the capacity to encode and retain meaningful internal representations of the salient elements of a traumatic experience may be present as early as the second half of the first year of life. The developmental implications of early trauma, particularly if it is severe, appear to be significant.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy*
  • Psychology, Child