Research has demonstrated that early childhood traumas trigger a stress response that damages a child’s developing brain, and that this damage can contribute to a range of social, emotional and health problems in later life, from suicide and substance abuse to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Researchers have identified a set of 10 experiences that can affect brain development: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, a mentally ill or depressed parent, a substance abusing parent, witnessing domestic violence, incarceration of a family member, and loss of parent due to abandonment/death/divorce. A landmark study by Kaiser Permanente and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:
• ACEs are common – Most of us (7 in 10 people) report at least one ACE.
• ACEs tend to occur together – The overwhelming majority of people (95%) who have had one ACE have had more than one.
• The risk of health and social problems increases with the number of ACEs – People with more ACEs may be at higher risk for heart disease, cancer, and early death; and have less success at school and work.