Of the 76 million children living in the United States, a staggering 60 percent (46 million) of them will experience the effects of childhood trauma: violence, abuse, crime and psychological trauma before they turn 18. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Believe it or not, home life plays a huge part in these statistics.
Specifically, children from single-parent homes seem to be at higher risk for adverse childhood experiences than those who live with both parents.
The National Survey of Children’s Health asked parents of 95,677 children under 18 if their kids had ever seen or heard “any parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up.” Nineteen of every 1,000 children living with their two married biological parents experienced that type of behavior. Sadly, the exposure rate was seven times higher (144 children per 1,000) in homes with a divorced or separated mother. These comparisons are adjusted for differences across age, sex, race, family income, poverty status and parent’s education level.
In an Institute for Family Studies article, Nicholas Zill, a psychologist and child and family well-being researcher with more than 40 years of experience, writes:
“Experiencing family violence is stressful for children, undercuts their respect and admiration for parents who engage in abusive behavior, and is associated with increased rates of emotional and behavioral problems at home and in school. For children of never-married mothers who witnessed family violence, 58 percent had conduct or academic problems. Among children of divorced or separated mothers, nearly half of those exposed to family violence, 48 percent, had had conduct or academic problems at school.”
So, how do adverse childhood experiences affect children long-term? Do they set the stage for greater difficulty later in life? Are children resilient?
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied more than 17,000 adults to find out. It examined the links between traumatic childhood experiences (abuse, neglect and family dysfunction including divorce, incarceration, substance abuse and mental health issues) and current adult health and well-being.
According to that study, exposure to adverse childhood experiences hinders the ability to form stable and healthy adult relationships. Plus, those experiences increase the risk for:
Experiencing substance abuse;
In contrast, healthy relationships at home, school and in the community can nurture a child’s physical and emotional growth. Children need these types of relationships from birth forward in order to thrive and grow into productive adults.
What can you do?
Create a safe and stable home for your kids.
Actively engage in your child’s life.
Learn skills to help you manage and resolve conflict.
Take parenting classes for various ages and stages.
Make sure your neighborhood is a safe place.
Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are among the most powerful and protective forces in a child’s life. So in order to promote healthy child development, we must be diligent in creating those safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. As a community, we all share responsibility for the well-being of our children.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
We can help to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for kids.
Many children are exposed to abuse, neglect and family dysfunction which experts often refer to as toxic stress. But why can one child who encounters toxic stress move beyond it and lead a healthy life while another cannot?
That’s the question researchers set out to answer in one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being. The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente, is called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study.
Originally, the study included more than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California who received physical exams. The members completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences (abuse, neglect and family dysfunction including divorce, incarceration, substance abuse and mental health issues) and current health status and behaviors.
Researchers found that the effects of adverse childhood experiences hinder the formation of stable and healthy adult relationships.
Plus, those experiences increase the risk for:
Experiencing substance abuse;
Conversely, healthy relationships in the home, school and community nurture a child’s physical and emotional growth. In short, children need these types of relationships from birth forward in order to thrive and become productive adults.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a staggering 50 percent of the 73 million children living in the United States will experience violence, abuse, crime and psychological trauma before they turn 18.
The National Survey of Children’s Health, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, surveyed parents of 95,677 children age 17 and under. It asked whether their child had ever seen or heard “any parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up.” The exposure rate for children living with their two married biological parents was 19 out of every 1,000 children. For children living with a divorced or separated mother, the rate of exposure was seven times higher (144 children per 1,000). These comparisons are adjusted for differences across age, sex, race, family income, poverty status and parent’s education level.
In 2012, Tennessee conducted its own ACEs survey through the CDC to see how adverse childhood experiences affected the state’s general population. It found that about 42 percent of residents experienced two or more ACEs. And, 1 in 5 Tennesseeans has experienced at least three categories of ACEs. Emotional abuse, substance abuse and parental separation or divorce are the most common adverse experiences statewide.
There are many opportunities to learn about adverse childhood experiences and their impact on education, the workplace and our community.
In addition to learning how to help create safe and stable homes for children and recognize the signs of ACEs in adults, it’s crucial to discover how to promote healing for those who have been exposed to toxic stress.
Tennessee is launching one of the first comprehensive public policy shifts focused on prevention because preventing ACEs in young children before they experience ongoing “toxic stress” can actually lower taxpayer and community costs. Learning about the impact of ACEs can greatly benefit families, companies, nonprofits, agencies and other community and religious organizations.
Since we are all responsible for the well-being of our community’s children, we can promote healthy child development together. For starters, we can help to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that kids need.