Many children grow-up experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Many grow-up in households where there is domestic violence, neglect, abuse both physical and emotional, some even experience the trauma of sexual abuse. According to the Center on the Developing Child (CDC) (2022) It is estimated that more than two-thirds of individuals in the US have been subject to at least one ACE and another quarter have experienced three of more. The outcome of those who have experienced such traumatic events or circumstances, often tends to be poor. The CDC (2022) goes on to point out that these individuals are more likely to experience diseases and disorders associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, smoking, and even early death. Research shows that “toxic stress” is the main source that trigger biological reactions which bring about these outcomes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) (2019) explains that toxic stress can cause changes in the development of the brain and affect the way the body response to ACEs.
In a study conducted by Mersky et al (2013) showed that ACEs increase the risk of poor health-related outcomes later in life. However, they point out that little is known about the consequence of ACEs in early adulthood. Therefore, the study, using data from the Chicago Longitudinal study, concentrated on early adulthood and the impact of ACEs. The study primarily focused on urban, minority samples of young adults with health, mental health, and substance use outcomes examined. The study also looked at moderating effects of sex. Those examined were individuals born in 1979 and 1980. The study was conducted with main effect analyses with multivariate logistics and OlS regression. The Sex differences were assessed by the use stratified analysis and followed by test interaction effects with the entire sample used. The results demonstrated that there is a strong association between ACEs and poorer outcomes for individuals in early adulthood. It demonstrated that among those who had experienced greater levels of ACEs had poorer self-rated health and life satisfaction, greater frequency of depression, anxiety, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use. It also showed that cumulative adversity brings about greater cumulative effects. When comparing individuals who have not experienced ACEs, individuals who had been more likely to experience three times poorer outcomes.
Risk and Prevention
The CDCP (2019) points out that not only have 61% of adults experienced ACEs but at least 16% of them had experienced 4 or more different types. In addition, ACEs significantly affect females and racial/ethnic minority group at a greater risk with experiencing 4 or more ACEs. They further go on to point out that many people often have a difficult time associating the increased risk of health-related issues of individuals who have experienced ACEs across lifespan. However, recognition of the impact of ACEs can help to provide both prevention and safeguards in the community related to ACEs. Greater public education providing “at risk parents” with education on child raising, establishing parental assistance programs such as utilizing senior volunteers to assist single women and men aa well as young families with pointers on how to raise children in a nurturing and loving environment would certainly be very beneficial. In addition, health officials can do more by anticipating and recognizing potential at risk children in the health care system field as well as in schools. Individuals working in the welfare systems and community health systems need to assess families and parents better for potential abuse and link to them early into supportive services. This may be a start towards reducing ignorance related to what is or is not adverse behaviors.
Developing resilience is a process often the result of attempting to find meaning to the stressful or traumatic situation one has endured. In many cases, resilience comes only after self-inventory and self-acceptance takes place. One must reach a point in their life where they are ready to let the past go and forgive themselves, in some cases, others. When one develops resilience, they are to tackle the challenges of the day with disciple, strength, and humility. There is one State in the US that is attempting to assist those who have experienced trauma resulting in ACEs. That state is the state of Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (ADHSS) (2015) statewide teachers, public health officials such as nurses and other health professionals have created a partnership with the ADHSS, the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and the Alaska Network of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to provide evidence based curriculum to assist 7th -9th graders who have experienced ACEs learn to help and gain strength from one another’s experiences and develop, at least, an understanding of the importance of resilience. The Alaska Division of Public Health has partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to provide teen safety cards, a gender-neutral resource developed for Alaska teens with guidance from Alaska teens. This card provides education on what is considered health and unhealthy relationships, the characteristics of what consent means and consists of, as well as, where to get help when needed. A card designed for women was also developed. In addition, the state working with private programs have develop other violence-prevention and youth empowerment programs.
These are the types of programs and assistance that is needed to counteract the long-term effects ACEs and help individuals build the type of resilience that can last a lifetime. Persons living with ACEs need to have the ability to process their pain and hurt and then become able to move forward with life. To do this, there must self-help groups and programs designed to meet their unique needs. Resilience comes through recovery and the greater the recovery the more powerful the resilience. Therefore, changing the thought patterns often experienced by victims of ACEs takes determination, open-mindedness, and desire. With these three processes at work one can overcome any obstacle.
Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (2015), Adverse Childhood Experience: Overcoming ACEs in Alaska. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.dhss.alaska.gov
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2019), Overview. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov.
Center on the Developing Child (2022), ACEs and Toxic Stress: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
Mersky, J.P., Topitzes, J., Reynolds, A. J., (2013), Impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Health, Mental Health, and Substance Use in Adulthood: A Cohort Study of an Urban, Minority Sample in the US. Child Abuse Neglect, 37(11): pp.917-925.