Child abuse has long-lasting effects on families and especially children. It can affect children’s physical, mental and emotional health beyond childhood. There are immediate effects to abuse and impacts that may not be seen until the teenage years or adulthood. Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, have been linked to long-term health problems such as low life potential, chronic health conditions, early death, and risky behavior.
What are ACEs?
ACEs or adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic things that occur in a child’s life. These experiences occur before a child is eighteen, but they remember them throughout their life. ACEs refers to specific types of trauma children may experience. They include physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; neglect, losing a parent such as through divorce, being exposed to domestic violence, having a parent with a mental illness, having a member of the household who abuses drugs or alcohol, and having a parent who has been in jail. Children living through these experiences may suffer from adverse effects for the rest of their lives.
How do ACES impact a child?
Children who experience these traumatic events or environments can experience challenges in their lives. Without a healthy adult to support them, they may experience toxic stress. They may encounter chronic health conditions like depression, asthma, or diabetes.
If a child experiences toxic stress long-term, they may adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse. When a child experiences chronic stress, it can lead them to have a lower tolerance for stressful situations in adulthood. Children can also experience PTSD and other mental health issues.
High ACE scores can also be linked to an early death. Studies have found that the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, was greater only for people with these high ACE scores.
If you have experienced childhood trauma and would like to take the ACES assessment, you can take it here.
#It’sTime for real solutions
Positive parenting and taking care of our children can help combat trauma. By nurturing and supporting our children, they are more likely to grow up into healthy, productive adults. We can break the cycle and help children move past childhood trauma.
How to help
Anyone who witnesses abusive behavior towards a child can and should report it! Child abuse takes many forms: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, neglect, exploitation, Shaken Baby Syndrome, bullying, and more. Neglect kills more children each year than any other form of childhood maltreatment. To report suspected child abuse, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)