Child trauma: Are we doing enough?
By Tami Silverman
Nearly 20 years ago, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study changed how we understand trauma’s effect on children. It inspired countless studies, intervention innovations, trainings and program assessments aimed at helping our kids be healthy, safe and successful.
The ACE Study highlighted the cumulative effect multiple types of trauma have on a child. In addition to examining direct traumas, such as physical and sexual abuse or serious neglect, the study also measured the effects of exposure to experiences such as divorce, domestic violence, or living with someone who had a mental illness, substance use disorder, or was incarcerated. The cumulative effect of these ACEs can result in lasting cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems.
Yet the impact of these experiences varies from child to child. The American Academy of Pediatrics distinguishes normal stress, some of which is developmentally beneficial, from repeated or prolonged exposure to ACEs. Experts say stressful events aren’t necessarily traumatic if they are countered by caring adults.