Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (1). These experiences include experiencing neglect or abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), witnessing violence, or experiencing death of a loved one. The household environment may also undermine the safety of the child, including growing up in an environment with substance misuse, instability (e.g. parental separation), violence, incarceration of a family member, or mental health difficulties (1–4).
Adverse childhood experiences are strongly associated with mental health difficulties (5) and increase the risk of suicide and depression in adulthood (6).
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences: Leveraging the Best Available Evidence. Atlanta, GA; 2019.
2. Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, et al. Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. Am J Prev Med [Internet]. 1998 May 1 [cited 2021 Jan 8];14(4):245–58. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0749379798000178
3. Lee D, McLanahan S. Family Structure Transitions and Child Development: Instability, Selection, and Population Heterogeneity. Am Sociol Rev [Internet]. 2015 Aug 4 [cited 2021 Jan 29];80(4):738–63. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4902167/?report=abstract
4. Wood LCN. Impact of punitive immigration policies, parent-child separation and child detention on the mental health and development of children. BMJ Paediatr Open [Internet]. 2018 Sep 1 [cited 2021 Jan 25];2(1). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6173255/?report=abstract
5. Hughes K, Bellis MA, Hardcastle KA, Sethi D, Butchart A, Mikton C, et al. The effect of multiple adverse childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Heal. 2017 Aug 1;2(8):e356–66.
6. Merrick MT, Ports KA, Ford DC, Afifi TO, Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A. Unpacking the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult mental health. Child Abus Negl. 2017 Jul 1;69:10–9.