Each year, psychological trauma arising from community and domestic violence, abuse, and neglect brings profound psychological, physiological, and academic harm to millions of American children, disproportionately poor children of color. This Article represents the first comprehensive legal analysis of the causes of and remedies for a crisis that can have lifelong and epigenetic consequences. Using civil rights and local government law, this Article argues that children’s reactions to complex trauma represent the natural symptomatology of severe structural inequality—legally sanctioned environments of isolated, segregated poverty. The sources of psychological trauma may be largely environmental, but the traumatic environments themselves are caused by spatial inequality. This Article sets forth a theory of structural inequality that demonstrates the importance of place-based differences in institutional functioning and the role of such disparities in producing the neurobiological, psychological, and behavioral outcomes comprehensively described in the literature from those disciplines (including the results of an original study of Newark, New Jersey school children). International analogies show how similarly human beings process traumatic events. This alternative legal analysis of child trauma compels a different remedial approach to both intervention and prevention. It argues that interventions like special education reform are necessary but problematic because they risk pathologizing the African American poor and exhausting institutional capacity. Instead, it provides a framework for prevention focused upon increasing mobility options and reforming local institutions.
David Dante Troutt,
Trapped in Tragedies: Childhood Trauma, Spatial Inequality, and Law,
101 Marq. L. Rev. 601
Available at: https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol101/iss3/2