The Lasting Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences
Detrimental childhood experiences can have a lasting negative health effect as observed in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study done by Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The study found that Adverse Childhood Experiences led to lifelong health issues due to the toxic stress that results from traumatic experiences which physically damages a child’s developing brain. Adverse childhood experiences occur regularly with children aged 0 to 18 years across all races, economic classes, and geographic regions; however, there is a much higher prevalence of ACEs for those living in poverty. The findings from the study found that Adverse Childhood Experiences are common, with almost two-thirds of the study participants reporting at least one ACE.
The ten Adverse Childhood Experiences are:
1. Emotional abuse
2. Emotional neglect
3. physical abuse
4. Physical neglect
5. sexual abuse
6. Drug addicted or alcoholic family member
7. Incarceration of a family member
8. Loss of a parent to death or abandonment
9. Mentally ill, depressed or suicidal family member
10. Witnessing domestic violence against mother
Unresolved trauma in children can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, and relationship issues. Help for children who have experienced a traumatic event should commence as soon as possible after the event has occurred. As such, it is important to identify signs of trauma in a child as well as to presume nothing from their silence but to seek to ensure that they are both reassured and supported. Recent research suggests that for adults, “trauma-informed” therapy — which centers on art, yoga or mindfulness training — can help. Trauma-informed therapy is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma and recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives. Trauma-informed care follows an approach that focuses on a person’s experiences before trying to correct their behavior, and understands that problem behaviors originate as attempts to cope with experiences.
To take the questionnaire to find out your ACE score click here. It is important to note that the ACE score is meant as a guideline and that there are many other experiences that can affect a child’s risk of health consequences. In particular, the ACE study does not tally up the positive experiences that people have, which may protect a child from the consequences of trauma. Resilience, which builds throughout life, and close relationships, are key to eradicating the effects of trauma. The topic of childhood trauma is frequently brought up in the media and Oprah Winfrey even hosted a “60 Minutes” segment to explore the topic of the mental health effects of childhood trauma. When Winfrey asked Dr. Bruce Perry, who she called the world’s leading expert on childhood trauma, why some people are able to overcome and thrive despite traumatic childhood experiences while others are not, it came down to one thing: relationships. Children are better able to cope with a traumatic event if they receive support from parents and other trusted adults they rely upon such as family members, friends, teachers and so forth.
Helping a child through a traumatic experience is important for building a child’s resilience, so that they learn how to face what has happened and move forward.
In preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, it is critical to engage in early identification