Recently we reviewed our volunteer training and decided that we

needed to strengthen the message of the impact of mentoring,

specifically in addressing the effects of childhood trauma.

Although there are many significant and obvious outcomes, like

building social connections, enjoying a range of new recreational

experiences, and building a young person’s self-esteem and

resilience, one of the more unrealised aspects of mentoring is to

reverse the impact of poor brain development.

There is considerable early childhood research that endorses the

idea that adverse childhood experiences – such as household

dysfunction, exposure to family violence, substance abuse, mental

illness, and forms of abuse – have a negative impact on a child’s


Early childhood trauma effects brain development, educational

performance, the ability to develop good social connections and

friendships, and impacts behaviour and emotional regulation. Early

childhood trauma can have long-term health and well-being

consequences contributing to ongoing disease, disability and social


Many of you may know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (also in

our training module) which suggests that if a person’s most basic

needs are not met they cannot develop as a person. These basic

needs include the physiological (air, food, shelter), feeling safe, a

sense of love and belonging, and good self-esteem. If a young

person struggles to have these basic needs met they may live in

‘survival mode’, which could result in decreased brain development,

attachment problems, lack of empathy, demonstrations of

aggressive and impulsive behaviour. Thus, living in a constant state

of stress, anxiety and instability will inhibit their ability to reach

their potential.


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