Understanding traumatic experiences

In the late 90s a landmark study on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) found that traumatic experiences in kids led to increased risk of heart attacks, diabetes, mental illness, stroke, lower income, less education, and early death. Nearly 25% of people surveyed experienced at least one ACE. And that’s just among the study participants who were predominantly white (85%) and college educated (64%).

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ACEs are defined as experiencing any of the following before the age of 18 years old: parental separation, mental illness in the household, substance abuse in the household, mother figure treated violently, household member in prison, abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), and neglect (emotional or physical). 

Have you experienced ACEs? Here is a brief NPR Quiz to find out.

There is not a lot of consensus yet about how best to screen for ACEs, so in our office, we are not screening yet. However, we do want to know if your family has experienced trauma, so please let us know if our current routine questions asking about about stress, food insecurity, depression/anxiety, and recent changes do not pick up on it.

What we know about a child and family’s ACEs can help us determine a plan to boost protective factors in the child’s life. Several things have been found to protect a child from the negative outcomes of ACEs: parental resilience, close relationship to a competent caregiver adult, caregiver and parental knowledge of positive parenting skills, development of an identity or a sense of purpose, and social connections.

Here is the CDC’s full webpage all about ACEs. And check out the CDC’s webpage on positive parenting to get advice on handling anything from toddler temper tantrums to talking with teen.

Graphic above is from the CDC