Adverse Childhood Experiences

Joan A. Reid

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online January 2018 | | DOI:
Adverse Childhood Experiences

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Substantial bodies of research from various fields have consistently documented the long-term, detrimental effects of childhood maltreatment and trauma. In the health science field, a body of research—known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies—has raised awareness among health-care providers of the cumulative or dose-response impact of childhood adversity on long-term health and well-being. Much of research on child maltreatment and trauma presents partitioned prevalence estimates for individual types of family violence and abuse, obscuring the reality that many children are victims of more than one type of abuse or violence. In contrast, ACE researchers designed a composite measure of childhood adversity, labeled an ACE score, calculated by summing eight to ten types of childhood adversities, each measured as either present or absent during childhood regardless of the duration or severity of the adversity. Researchers found that experiencing multiple types of childhood adversity was linked to the leading causes of death in the United States. The mechanisms facilitating the lifelong association between ACEs and poor health have been conceptualized in the ACE Pyramid Framework, which links childhood adversity to chronic health problems and early death by means of social, emotional, and cognitive impairments and health risk behaviors. In alignment with the ACE Pyramid, researchers have investigated the links between ACEs and (1) chronic health problems and early death, (2) mental health risk and suicide, (3) health risk behaviors, (4) violence and offending risk, and (5) risk for further victimization. ACE studies have explored the impacts of ACEs on various health and social outcomes using samples from differing population groups, including community samples, school samples, samples encompassing several birth cohorts, and samples of incarcerated populations. The ACE studies have provided greater understanding of the prevalence and impact of childhood maltreatment and trauma. The body of ACE research has the potential to guide policy aimed at preventing ACEs and to inform intervention strategies—encouraging trauma-informed care—for individuals who have experienced multiple types of childhood adversity. However, many questions remain. The mechanism of the association between ACEs and early death, which types of childhood adversities should be counted, the relative impact of various types of childhood adversities, and differences in ACE effects on men and women and across races or ethnicities have not yet been established.

Article.  7473 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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