Facts for Living: Childhood experiences can have lifelong impact on quality of life – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Facts for Living: Childhood experiences can have lifelong impact on quality of life

By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension Agent

080714-facts-for-living1Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that can have profound effects on the lifelong health of children and adults. These experiences range from physical, emotional or sexual abuse to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian.

A research brief published by Child Trends (Moore, Murphey, & Sacks, July 2014), reports the prevalence of one or more ACEs among children ages birth through 17, as reported by their parents, using nationally representative data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health.

The report shows that just under half of children in the U.S. have had at least one of a series of major, potentially traumatic events associated with an increased risk of poor health and illness as adults. One in 10 kids has experienced three or more of eight adverse childhood experiences included in the National Survey of Children’s Health, which was used for the study.

Economic hardship is the most common adverse childhood experience reported nationally and in almost all states, followed by divorce or separation of a parent or guardian. Abuse of alcohol or drugs, exposure to neighborhood violence, and the occurrence of mental illness are among the most commonly-reported adverse childhood experiences in every state.

The prevalence of ACEs increases with a child’s age, except for economic hardship, which was reported equally for children of all ages, reflecting high levels of poverty among young families.

Childhood experiences have a tremendous, lifelong impact on our health and the quality of our lives. The study shows dramatic links between adverse childhood experiences and risky behavior, psychological issues, serious illness and the leading causes of death. In fact, people with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier on average than those without ACEs.

The ACE study highlights a major problem without offering a clear solution. But some states are responding with intervention strategies that include prevention, resiliency and trauma-informed.

  • Prevention: Helping parents have the knowledge and develop skills, resources and support they need to provide safe, stable, nurturing and healthy environments for their children reduces the likelihood of abuse and neglect.
  • Resiliency: Children who develop supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can more easily overcome the effects of constant stress and adversity.
  • Trauma-informed: This is a “what happened to you” versus “what is wrong with you?” approach. This approach recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role trauma has played in someone’s life.

McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development agent. For more information, she can be contacted at the Extension district’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].

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