Households without English speakers
inbrief | THE IMPACT OF EARLY ADVERSITY ON CHILDREN’S DEVELOPMENT
What happens in early childhood can matter for a lifetime. To successfully manage our society’s future, we must recognize problems and address them before they get worse. In early childhood, research on the biology of stress shows how major adversity, such as extreme poverty, abuse, or neglect can weaken developing brain architecture and permanently set the body’s stress response system on high alert. Science also shows that providing stable, responsive, nurturing relationships in the earliest years of life can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of early life stress, with lifelong benefits for learning, behavior, and health.
A series of brief summaries of the scientific presentations at the National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy.
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Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems.
The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a count of the total number of ACE respondents reported. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:
Data and Statistics
Prevalence of Individual Adverse Childhood Experiences
(N = 9,367)
(N = 7,970)
(N = 17,337)
|Number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE Score)||Women||Men||Total|
|4 or more||15.2||9.2||12.5|
* Some ACE categories were defined using items adapted from other questionnaires. These were the Conflict Tactics Scalea (physical abuse, witnessing interparental violence, and emotional abuse), the Child Trauma Questionnaireb (emotional and physical neglect) and questions from Wyattc (sexual abuse).
a Straus MA, & Gelles RJ. Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press; 1990.
b Bernstein DP, Fink L, Handelsman L, Foote J, Lovejoy M, Wenzel K, Sapareto E, Ruggiero J. Initial reliability and validity of a new retrospective measure of vhild abuse and neglect. American Journal of Psychiatry 1994;151:1132–1136.
c Wyatt GE. The sexual abuse of Afro-American and White-American women in childhood. Child Abuse & Neglect 1985;9:507–519.
The following categories all occurred in the participant's first 18 years of life.
Often or very often a parent or other adult in the household swore at you, insulted you, or put you down and sometimes, often or very often acted in a way that made you think that you might be physically hurt.
An adult or person at least 5 years older ever touched or fondled you in a sexual way, or had you touch their body in a sexual way, or attempted oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you or actually had oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you.
Respondents were asked whether their family made them feel special, loved, and if their family was a source of strength, support, and protection. Emotional neglect was defined using scale scores that represent moderate to extreme exposure on the Emotional Neglect subscale of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) short form.
Respondents were asked whether there was enough to eat, if their parents drinking interfered with their care, if they ever wore dirty clothes, and if there was someone to take them to the doctor. Physical neglect was defined using scale scores that represent moderate to extreme exposure on the Physical Neglect subscale of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) short form constituted physical neglect.
1Collected during the second survey wave only (N=8,667).
Mother Treated Violently
Your mother or stepmother was sometimes, often, or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her and/or sometimes often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard, or ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or ever threatened or hurt by a knife or gun.