The Impact of Trauma on Families

What is Trauma? 

According to the Center for Nonviolence & Social Justice, "the word “trauma” is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, and that overwhelm people’s ability to cope, leaving them powerless. Trauma has sometimes been defined in reference to circumstances that are outside the realm of normal human experience. Unfortunately, this definition doesn’t always hold true. For some groups of people, trauma can occur frequently and become part of the common human experience.

In addition to terrifying events such as violence and assault, we suggest that relatively more subtle and insidious forms of trauma—such as discrimination, racism, oppression, and poverty—are pervasive and, when experienced chronically, have a cumulative impact that can be fundamentally life-altering.

Particular forms of trauma, such as intentional violence and/or witnessing violence, sustained discrimination, poverty, and ensuing chaotic life conditions are directly related to chronic fear and anxiety, with serious long-term effects on health and other life outcomes."


Please click here for full bios of the panelists. 

Tracey Clogher
Co-Creator & Co-Facilitator, MPower Program, Norfolk Juvenile Court; Probation Office, Office of the Commissioner of Probation
Andrea James 
Founder, Families for Justice as Healing
Erika Kates, Ph.D.
Senior Researcher, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College
Colleen Rosales
Director of Classification, MCI-Framingham
Rahsaan Hall 
Director, Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts

Reading List 

The following articles and documents are presented to participants for further reading:

Effects of Parental Incarceration on Young ChildrenUniversity of California- Riverside and Irvine

Promising Gender‐Responsive, Community‐Based Programs for Women Offenders in Massachusetts: A Resource for PolicymakersWellesley Centers for Women

Research, Practice and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders, U.S. Department of Labor, National Institute of Corrections

Parenting from Prison: Family Relationships of Incarcerated Women in Massachusetts, Wellesley Centers for Women

Dual Punishment: Incarcerated Mothers and Their Children, Columbia Social Work Review

Female addicts given an alternative to prisonThe Boston Globe