Adverse Childhood Experiences
Research into Adverse Childhood Experiences started in the US during the late 90’s. The research found that
Adverse Childhood Experiences were associated with poorer mental health, physical health, higher levels of
problematic drinking and drug abuse. It is highly likely that children in the care system would have experienced
at least one Adverse Childhood Experience.
What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?
There are three main types of Adverse Childhood Experiences. There are some children who might experience more than one Adverse Childhood Experience.
- Child Abuse: Physical, Emotional and Sexual Abuse
- Neglect: Physical and Emotional
- House Dysfunction: Mental Health, Incarcerated relative, Domestic Abuse, Substance Misuse
How Adverse Childhood Experiences affect outcomes for children
There is a lot of research linking Adverse Childhood Experiences to problems in adulthood: such as poor Physical or Mental Health, increased risk of self-harming, lower engagement with school, teenage pregnancy, becoming prepetrators of violence, or an increased risk of offending. However, it does not mean that if a child experiences an Adverse Childhood Experiences that these poor outcomes are inventible. There are things that people who work with these children and young people can do.
Theories behind the mechanics
The current thinking around Adverse Childhood Experiences is that children adapt to their environment, so the behaviour at the time projects them from injury. However, the behaviour is maladaptive in normal situations.
Children who suffer from Adverse Childhood Experiences are more likely to have changes in three parts of the brain; Reward, Threat and Memory systems. Therefore, a child who had an Adverse Childhood Experience might react badly to normal situations.
Responding to Adverse Childhood Experiences/ Trauma
There is often overlap between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma. The UK Trauma Council have produced a range of resources to support frontline workers in spotting the signs and how to respond effectively to behaviour.
The key is maintaining current boundaries within your setting, but take a pause before reacting, and attempt to promote recovery and promote resilience with the child. This is not an easy process, but can help to support the child. We recommend that you watch the five minute video and explore UK Trauma Council website.
Young Minds have created a guide on how to deal with trauma.