We cannot ignore the damaging effects of childhood adversity on the individual, on families, on societies, and on nations.
Events or circumstances that are potentially traumatic can cause toxic stress to the child, which results in poor physical and mental well-being of the child. A safe and a warm environment with caring adults can boost the well-being of children. As such, we can make a difference to their lives by having an awareness and understanding of trauma and its effects, and what we can do to mitigate the effects is important. Being trauma-informed reflects that awareness and understanding. It requires a mindset shift from “what is wrong with you?” to “what has happened to you?” It adopts an attitude of respect, compassion and giving attention and care. This takes place in one’s interaction with children, youth and their families.
In 1998, CDC-Kaiser Permanente published a groundbreaking study that investigated the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on physical and mental health problems in over 17,000 adults. During the study, the adults were given a survey asking about 10 different types of ACEs and if they had experienced them prior to the age of 18. The study showed a direct correlation between ACEs and future health complications.
A similar ACE study was also conducted in Singapore as part of the Singapore Mental Health Study and it yielded similar findings as the CDC-Kaiser study.
A child with 4 or more ACEs, compared to a child without ACEs, is more likely to develop unhealthy coping methods such as substance abuse, smoking or engage in harmy and risky behaviours and may develop mental or physical illnesses later in life.
Types of ACEs, as identified by the CDC-Kaiser study includes:
Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
Physical or emotional neglect
Household challenges such as parental divorce, parents in jail, parents taking drugs, parents being violent to each other and parents having mental illness
There are other types of adverse childhood experiences not included in the list of 10 ACEs above, such as those listed in other sections of this site.