Culture and Context of Trauma

Week 3: Culture and Context of Trauma

Will the trauma experienced by a 6-year-old who has survived a tornado differ from the trauma experienced by an adolescent who has survived the same event? How will their experiences compare to those of an older adult? Imagine a group of individuals who lose all of their resources as a result of a human-made disaster. Will the trauma of losing everything differ between individuals from an impoverished background and individuals who are more affluent? How does culture influence worldview and subsequent perception of the trauma? As you might imagine, there are different levels of traumatization that will, in turn, affect your professional response.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze the impact of stages of development on crisis, trauma, and disaster treatment
  • Analyze the impact of culture on crisis, trauma, and disaster treatment

Learning Resources

Required Readings

James, R. K., & Gilliland, B. E. (2017). Crisis intervention strategies (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Chapter 2, “Culturally Effective Helping” (pp. 27-47)

Dass-Brailsford, P. (2008). After the storm: Recognition, recovery, and reconstruction. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(1), 24–30.

Dunn, E. C., Nishimi, K., Powers, A., & Bradley, B. (2017). Is developmental timing of trauma exposure associated with depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in adulthood? Journal of Psychiatric Research, 84, 119-127.

Margolin, G., Ramos, M. C., & Guran, E. L. (2010). Earthquakes and children: The role of psychologists with families and communities. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41(1), 1–9.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2003). Developing cultural competence in disaster mental health programs: Guiding principles and recommendations [Brochure]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from

Document: Case Study: Jessie (PDF)

Pyles, L. (2017). Decolonising disaster social work: Environmental justice and community participation. British Journal of Social Work, 47(3), 630–647.

Discussion: Cultural and Developmental Implications for Survivors

When working with any client, you must consider the impact of human development and culture. This is especially true when working with survivors of critical incidents. A 4-year-old child’s cognitive processing is different from that of a 35-year-old adult. Thus, you must be familiar with developmental stages, specifically those that incorporate cognitive and emotional understanding, when working with survivors of critical incidents. The cultural context of survivors also has an impact on their responses to critical incidents. For example, Haiti is an impoverished country with limited resources. The earthquake in 2010 devastated this country, the extent of which was at least partially the result of culturally relevant factors. The systems to filter and purify water in this country are not easily reconstructed, resources to rebuild houses and buildings are not immediately available, and food sources that are destroyed from an earthquake are not easily replenished. In an environment where there are more financial and systemic resources, the experience of an earthquake might not have such a significant impact on the continued health of the survivors.

For this Discussion, select a critical incident that would require a professional response for survivors and think about a culture in which this critical incident might occur. Consider the different stages of development of potential clients from the following: 6-year-old child, 14-year-old adolescent, 26-year-old young adult, and 50-year-old older adult. Think about how you would respond differently to each of your clients depending on their stage of development when experiencing the event or situation you selected.

By Day 4

Post by Day 4 a brief description of the critical incident you selected and the culture in which it might occur. Then, briefly describe your “clients” in terms of their stages of development. Next, explain how the developmental stage may influence the needs of your clients. Be specific and provide examples to illustrate. Identify any ecological factors that may influence survivors of the critical incident. Finally, explain how intervention with this critical incident might be different if the client(s) was/were of a different culture.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the resources.




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