Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko PhD

Second Reader

Margaret Murphy EdD


Children's brains develop within the context of their earliest environments and experiences. Their neural and social development can be affected as consequences of complex trauma, disorganized attachment, maltreatment, and abuse. During early childhood, children's nervous systems are in their most vulnerable period of maturation and organizational development. Early life traumas and stresses can lead to structural and physiological differences, having long-term consequences on emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and social development. Children with adverse childhood experiences, including complex trauma, are more likely to be suspended, expelled, or have lower academic achievement. This puts students with early trauma histories at greater risk of dropping out of school and experiencing difficulty in peer relationships. Early interventions and creating trauma-informed classrooms can have a strong positive impact on brain development for students who have experienced complex trauma by helping students to self-soothe and self-regulate. Yet, while trauma-informed care strategies have been proven to support students, teachers are not always able to implement these strategies in the classroom. This research explored both the internal and external barriers to providing trauma-informed care within one school district using a mixed methods approach, which included both teacher and administrator interviews, as well as an online survey about trauma-informed care in the classroom. The results of the study showed that shifting perspectives from a treatment-based approach to trauma-informed care to a model of building cohorts and creating community among teachers led to more resilient learning communities for both students and teachers. Implications are that future practice can include providing better trauma-informed care by supporting teachers build relationships so they can help these vulnerable student populations and improve their educational and life outcomes.

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