The Effects of Early Relational Trauma on Right Brain Development,
Affect Regulation, & Infant Mental Health



A primary interest of the field of infant mental health is in the early conditions that place infants at risk for less than optimal development. The fundamental problem of what constitutes normal and abnormal development is now a focus of developmental psychology, infant psychiatry, and developmental neuroscience. In the second part of this sequential work, I present interdisciplinary data to more deeply forge the theoretical links between severe attachment failures, impairments of the early development of the right brainis stress coping systems, and maladaptive infant mental health.

In the following I offer thoughts on the negative impact of traumatic attachments on brain development and infant mental health, the neurobiology of infant trauma, the neuropsychology of a disorganized / disoriented attachment pattern associated with abuse and neglect, trauma-induced impairments of a regulatory system in the orbitofrontal cortex, the links between orbitofrontal dysfunction and a predisposition to posttraumatic stress disorders, the neurobiology of the dissociative defense, the etiology of dissociation and body-mind psychopathology, the effects of early relational trauma on enduring right hemispheric function, and some implications for models of early intervention. These findings suggest direct connections between traumatic attachment, inefficient right brain regulatory functions, and both maladaptive infant and adult mental health.

In the first paper of this serial contribution, I have suggested that an interdisciplinary approach that focuses upon attachment experiences and their effects on regulatory structures and functions can offer us more comprehensive models of normal development.

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