The Child’s Response to Threat
When the child perceives threat (e.g., anticipating an assault on self or loved one), their
brain will orchestrate a total-body mobilization to adapt to the challenge. Their emotional,
behavioral, cognitive, social and physiological functioning will change. These responses to threat are heterogeneous and graded. The degree and nature of a specific response will vary from individual to individual in any single event and across events for any given individual. In animals and in humans, two primary but interactive response patterns, hyperarousal and dissociative, have been described (Perry et al., 1995; Perry, 1999). Most individuals use various combinations of these two distinct response patterns during any given traumatic event. The predominant response patterns and combinations of these primary ‘styles’ appear to shift from dissociative (common in babies and young children) to hyperarousal during development.