Adverse Childhood Experiences Are Linked to Juvenile Justice System Contact, Columbia Review Shows

16 December 2020— New York, NY

In partnership with the Stop Abuse Campaign, researchers at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health have published a systematic review showing that higher Adverse Childhood Experience scores are associated with a greater risk of juvenile justice system contact.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, are ten childhood traumas, including all forms of child abuse, neglect, and witnessing domestic violence, that have been proven to negatively impact physical, social, emotional, and financial health. 

The researchers reviewed 11 studies linking ACE scores to justice system contact. Ten of 11 studies found that those with higher ACE scores were more likely to have contact with the justice system. Justice system contact was defined as arrest, recidivism, felony charge or equivalent, and incarceration. 

These findings are of particular importance because they suggest that justice system contact may be an important pathway through which ACEs lead to poor health. The impact of interventions to reduce ACEs exposure, as well as opportunities to disrupt the impact of ACEs, will be important areas of future study.

“This study shows how ACEs, which typically happen within families and behind closed doors, may have larger community impacts through the ripple effects of criminal justice system contact. The findings underscore the importance of ACE prevention and treatment,” said Andrew Willis, founder of the Stop Abuse Campaign. 

A short video abstract summarizing the findings of our paper can be found below:


The full text of the study, published today in Pediatrics, can be found here.

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