By Taylor Jenai Mooers, Undergraduate Student; B.S. in Public Health, Lindenwood University; Gateway Human Trafficking Intern
**Note: This article provides our audience with information about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). There will be an article following this one that will discuss how ACEs are applicable to child trafficking victims’ lives. We are hoping this information will help our community members and service providers to advance their knowledge and services to trafficking victims.
Childhood adversity is a general term for a broad range of circumstances or events that pose a serious threat to a child’s physical or psychological well-being. Common examples of childhood adversity include child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, bullying, serious accidents or injuries, discrimination, extreme poverty, and community violence. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a subset of childhood adversities. The researchers asked adults about childhood adversities in seven categories: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. As Bartlett and Sacks*** mentioned, adverse childhood experiences are different than child trauma, and it’s critical to understand this difference. Trauma is one possible outcome of exposure to adversity. Trauma occurs when a person perceives an event or set of circumstances as extremely frightening, harmful, or threatening—either emotionally, physically, or both. Certain types of childhood adversity are especially likely to cause trauma reactions in children, such as the sudden loss of a family member, a natural disaster, a serious car accident, or a school shooting. Other childhood adversities (e.g., parental separation or divorce) tend to be associated with more variability in children’s reactions and may or may not be experienced by a child as trauma.
What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are some events that happen in a person’s life between the ages of 0-17 (1). There are 3 categories of ACEs (1):
- Household Dysfunction
- Mental Illness
- Mother treated violently
- Incarcerated relative
- Substance abuse
ACEs encompass various forms of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and household dysfunctions as listed above (2). Research suggests that childhood exposure to one or more ACEs can have long-lasting, negative effects on their opportunities, physical and mental health, and overall wellbeing (3). Approximately 60% of Americans experience at least one ACE during their childhood.1 Woman, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and African Americans risk experiencing four or more ACEs (1). A person who experiences more ACEs is at a higher risk to experience negative health outcomes (1).
Adverse Childhood Experiences may negatively impact a person’s physical health and have been associated with diabetes, PTSD, cancer, stroke, a compromised immune system, and chronic health problems later in life (3). ACEs may also impact a person’s mental health by leading to depression and substance abuse (3). Additionally, childhood adversity leads to poor social development skills, social/behavioral issues, unhealthy coping behaviors, and engagement in risky behaviors or violence (3).
It is important to understand that those who have experienced childhood adversity are not condemned to negative health outcomes. ACEs are completely preventable, and according to the CDC, They can be prevented by (2):
- Strengthening economic support for families
- Promoting social norms that protect against violence and adversity
- Ensuring a strong start for children and paving the way for them to reach their full potential
- Teaching skills to help parents and youth handle stress, manage emotions and tackle everyday challenges
- Connecting youth to caring adults and activities
- Intervening to lessen immediate and long-term harms
These strategies help to create changes in social norms, environments, and behaviors to prevent ACEs from happening at all (2). By addressing the causes of ACEs and also the needs of both the parents and children, these steps provide an approach to preventing ACEs and ensuring and safe and stable environment for everyone (2). ACEs aren’t just a personal problem, they are a public health crisis.
***Click HERE to review Jessica Dym Bartlett and Vanessa Sacks’ article.
If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation:
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888
Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to all reports of potential human trafficking.
Text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Message and data rates may apply.
Chat with the National Human Trafficking Hotline via www.humantraffickinghotline.org/chat