Even if children grow up in a loving, happy home, there is still the very real possibility that they have experienced some form of childhood trauma or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) during their youth. In this blog, we’ll discuss adverse childhood experiences, their frequency, how childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime, screening strategies, and tips for helping your child cope with these experiences.

What is an Adverse Childhood Experience?

An adverse childhood experience is defined as an occurrence of one or more of the following experiences during the first 18 years of life:

  • Abuse
    • Emotional
    • Physical
    • Sexual
  • Household Challenges
    • Witness to Domestic Abuse
    • Household Substance Abuse
    • Household Mental Illness
    • Parental Separation or Divorce
    • Household Member in Prison
  • Neglect
    • Emotional
    • Physical (i.e. malnourishment, unclean home, etc.)

How Common Is Childhood Trauma?

According to an adverse childhood experiences study by Kaiser Permanente, over 2/3 of participants had one or more ACE in their lifetime. While these can range from the separation and divorce of parents to repeated abuse, when untreated, these experiences can lead to “toxic stress” that can carry on into adulthood.

Long-Term Health Effects of Childhood Trauma

Depending on the severity and duration of adverse childhood experiences, there are many long-term health effects seen in people who experienced trauma in their childhood. These can range from disrupted neurodevelopment and social, emotional and cognitive impairment to addiction, disease, and even early death.

Screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences

When screening for adverse childhood experiences, it’s important to combine self-reporting surveys with structured, private interviews, as children are likely to not report certain traumas, especially if they’re afraid of the consequences of sharing their experience.

Coping With Childhood Trauma

As caretakers and health professionals, it’s our responsibility to recognize the symptoms of adverse childhood experiences and help children develop the healthy coping mechanisms they need to live happy, healthy lives.

If your child has experienced childhood trauma, Woodburn Pediatrics can help develop a treatment plan for addressing their trauma to help prevent the long-term risks associated with ACEs. Watch this video to learn more about long-term health problems associated with ACEs and take a look at our full list of services, including general pediatrics, mental health, pediatric nutrition, and more.