According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, childhood experiences can have a tremendous effect in various ways throughout a person’s life.
Three Types of ACEs
RWJF reports that there are three types of ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences. These are
- household dysfunction
Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual . Neglect can have physical or emotional components. According to the ACEs infographic above, household dysfunction can consist of mental illness, a mother being treated violently, divorce, having an incarcerated relative and substance abuse in the home.
Statistics Regarding the Impacts of ACEs
The impact of the ACE’s on a child’s life varies depending on how many ACE’s the child has experienced. As a child becomes involved with more of the above listed adverse childhood experiences, they become more prone to additional risk outcomes. The two different types of risk outcomes are characterized by
- physical and mental health
The behavior of a child as they grow is affected by the type of ACE’s they experience. Some of the behavior outcomes they may experience include smoking, drug use, alcoholism, lack of physical activity and even missed work.
The physical and mental health of a child is affected by the type of ACE’s they experience, as well. Some of the physical and mental health risk outcomes are severe obesity, diabetes, depression, suicide attempts, STD’s, heart disease, cancer, stroke, COPD and even broken bones.
The truth about the ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) is that they will affect children in some way or another: mentally, emotionally and even physically.
Overcoming Adverse Childhood Experiences
A person’s life is not determined by their childhood experiences. Although, as this infographic shows, it is MORE LIKELY that a person will experience negative outcomes in adulthood when they have had adverse or negative experiences in childhood. This is not deterministic. It does not mean that adult cannot have a chance for a healthy, happy life.
In the same way, if a child experiences one of the mentioned ACEs, such as divorce, it does not mean that they can not live a healthy, happy life throughout the rest of their childhood and into adulthood.
There is a great amount of research out there that supports resiliency theory. See this article for more information about resilience theory.
As a parent or caregiver of a child who has experienced ACEs, you can help build resilience in that child by teaching and supporting the development of skills such as:
- Understanding what is in their control and what is not
- Setting goals and working toward those goals
- Effective and healthy problem-solving skills
- Having empathy for others and one’s self
- Having healthy feelings management skills
As an adult who has experienced ACEs, you can use the previous skills, as well. Your life or your child’s life does not have to be filled with challenges and negative outcomes just because you or they experienced difficult things growing up. You can beat the odds with some work, commitment, motivation/desire, and, if you or the child needs it, it’s okay to have help from others including a professional doctor or therapist if needed. Hold on to hope and stay optimistic.
Thanks for reading.