Adverse childhood experiences don’t need to harm the remainder of a child’s life

Studies show the presence of one reliable, nurturing adult in a child’s life can make all the difference to a child who has experienced trauma and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Traumatic life events, also called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as repeated childhood trauma or toxic stress, can lead to long-term health issues. These may include a higher risk for chronic disease and substance abuse.

But a child who lived with ACEs can escape these ill effects in a safe, stable and nurturing environment where they can adapt and build resilience.

In Kentucky, 27 percent of children up to age 17 have had two or more ACEs — that’s more than 6 percentage points higher than the national rate.

The “Adverse Childhood Experiences in Kentucky” section of the 2018 America’s Health Rankings report published by the United Health Foundation lists examples of common ACEs:

  • Socioeconomic hardship
  • Parental divorce
  • Separation or death of a parent
  • Living with someone with alcohol or drug addiction
  • A victim or witness of neighborhood violence
  • Living with someone with mental illness
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Treated or judged unfairly due to race or ethnicity
  • A parent who served time in jail

Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness

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ACEs studies and building resiliency

There are effective strategies to build resiliency in children and improve their lives. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the presence of one reliable, nurturing adult in a child’s life can make all the difference. That nurturing adult can ensure a child’s well-being and buffer against the negative effects of trauma.

Kentucky Strengthening Families, a statewide initiative focused on improving outcomes for children and families, identifies several protective factors to support thriving families:

  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Knowledge of child development
  • Concrete support when needed
  • Social and emotional competence of children
  • Nurturing and attachment

Dr. Frazier is a pediatrician at Norton Children’s Medical Group – Broadway and medical director of Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.