Monday, December 11, 2006

Adverse Childhood Events

Adverse Childhood Events (from a study published in 1998 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine) occur much more frequently than usually recognized and have an incredible impact on adult health, even 50 years later.

18,000 volunteers (average age 57) were queried about history of child abuse and household problems when they were children (yes, the study did depend on the vagaries of recall, but the internal consistency does seem to bear out the results). The adverse childhood events looked at were physical, sexual or psychological abuse as a child or living in a household with a member who was mentally ill, imprisoned, a substance abuser or a victim of domestic violence, or having an absent parent (whatever the cause).

Less than half of the study subjects had none of these events in their lives. 80% of those with one event in their childhood had at least one other from another category (they do tend to be interrelated). One in four individuals had two events and one in 16 had four. Two thirds of the females had at least one of these events in their lives.

These events disrupt normal neuro-development contributing to emotional, cognitive, and social impairment later in life. Most interestingly (surprisingly?) these adverse childhood events correlated in a dose-related manner (the more events the more likely the outcome) to health problems later in life, in the form of health risk behavior, diseases, disabilities, and early death. It was the opinion of the authors that these adverse childhood events were “the leading determinate of the heath and social well-being of our nation.”

This seems to speak to the fact that much of individual health is actually “community” health and that we must work at community “healing”. This community “healing” is necessary not only for the community, but for each individual as well.


peggy said...

i was a victim of such events & the study has helped me personally. At present; I am doing a research project to gain my drug and alcohol counseling license. Any help would be gladly accepted.

Ingrid said...

As a vicitm of 4+ of these adverse events, the ACE study hase been very valuable to me. In contrast to the frequent statements by one of my siblings that I was making it up or being a hypochondriac to avoid school or other challenges, the ACE study validated my sense that what had happened to me was real, and that those events had lasting effects on my life, health, and the possiblities open to me.
Also, as someone with a strong interest in Public Health and prevention, the ACE study indicaates how hard we need to work to make sure that all children can live lives as free from adverse childhood events as is possible.