Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 353–358 | Cite as

A Pilot Study of Deaf Trauma Survivors’ Experiences: Early Traumas Unique to Being Deaf in a Hearing World

  • Melissa L. Anderson
  • Kelly S. Wolf Craig
  • Wyatte C. Hall
  • Douglas M. Ziedonis
Exploratory Study


Conducting semi-structured American Sign Language interviews with 17 Deaf trauma survivors, this pilot study explored Deaf individuals’ trauma experiences and whether these experiences generally align with trauma in the hearing population. Most commonly reported traumas were physical assault, sudden unexpected deaths, and “other” very stressful events. Although some “other” events overlap with traumas in the general population, many are unique to Deaf people (e.g., corporal punishment at oral/aural school if caught using sign language, utter lack of communication with hearing parents). These findings suggest that Deaf individuals may experience developmental traumas distinct to being raised in a hearing world. Such traumas are not captured by available trauma assessments, nor are they considered in evidence-based trauma treatments.


Posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD Life Events Checklist Deaf and hard-of-hearing community Developmental trauma 



We would like to acknowledge the members of the Deaf & Allied Clinicians Consult Group for their consultation and guidance on this project: Gloria Farr, LICSW; Susan Jones, LMHC; Lisa Mistler, MD; and Gregory Spera. We would also like to thank Robert Goldberg, PhD, for his feedback during the preparation of this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Interest/Funding

This work was partially supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant KL2TR000160. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Ethical Approval

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa L. Anderson
    • 1
  • Kelly S. Wolf Craig
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wyatte C. Hall
    • 3
  • Douglas M. Ziedonis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Systems & Psychosocial Advances Research CenterUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolShrewsburyUSA
  2. 2.Connecticut Department of Developmental ServicesNewingtonUSA
  3. 3.National Center for Deaf Health ResearchUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

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