One of the most comprehensive studies about the long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences is the ACE Study. This post will explain, briefly, what it is and how it can help you as a parent or caregiver to raise a more well-adjusted child.
From 1995 to 1997, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recruited participants for a long-term study that has come to be known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The study ended up using 17,337 participants.
What does the ACE Study measure?
The ACE Study asked people if they had experienced any of the following 10 things as a child:
MOTHER TREATED VIOLENTLY
HOUSEHOLD SUBSTANCE ABUSE
HOUSEHOLD MENTAL ILLNESS
PARENTAL SEPARATION OR DIVORCE
INCARCERATED HOUSEHOLD MEMBER
Each of the above experiences that occurred would raise a person’s score. The higher the score, the more at risk a person is for the following, although this list is not exhaustive:
- Illicit drug use
- Financial stress
- Suicide attempts
- Unintended pregnancies
- Sexual violence
- Poor academic achievement
You can go to the CDC website for a more thorough look at the study and the risks associated with a high ACE score.
What Can We Learn From the ACE Study?
When you look at the first list, you can see that one thing might lead to another. If a child’s mother is abused, it raises the likelihood that the child will be abused as well in some form or another. Emotional neglect can lead to a child becoming the target of a perpetrator of sexual abuse. Household mental illness may mean that a child is physically neglected. It’s difficult to take one aspect of the ACE without tying it to another.
So what does that have to do with helping you prevent your child from being sexually abused?
The ACE Study shows us that there are things that will make your child more vulnerable to sexual abuse. As you are looking at your child’s potential ACE score, you can see the places where you need to put more focus and energy.
For example, if your recent divorce has left your child feeling emotionally neglected, you still have time to remedy that situation. Take a close look at yourself and be honest about what you can do to lower your child’s ACE score. The more informed you are, the better decisions you can make. Give your child the best chance you can to become a well-adjusted, high-functioning adult.