As an individual grows, they think, feel and act based on their intellect, level of maturity, and understanding which enhances their experiences with time. These experiences, especially between the age range of 2 years – 12 years significantly affect children’s long-term emotional and psychological health as per various studies. It predisposes how their brain functions or responds to stress, their ability to form healthy relationships, and the personality they may develop later in life.
Along with positive experiences, there are different kinds of adverse childhood experiences that are required to maintain the equilibrium of the learning process. The impact of these adverse childhood experiences on an individual can be analyzed on the basis of factors like the level of severity, duration, trust violation, etc.
The study of childhood abuse, neglect, household challenges, later-life health and well-being was conducted by “The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)”. The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. The study projected the impact of ACE on the child in transition to adulthood. The health examination along with other mental status examination showed positive correlation between:-
- Adverse childhood experiences and general well being, current health status.
- Adverse childhood experiences and psychological well being, behaviours.
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Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) During Transition into Adulthood
1. Difficulty in Regulating Emotions
According to Peterson et al., (2014) physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are the types of abuse that many children face in their childhood. Children who have undergone any kind of abuse face difficulty in regulating their emotions. They also are at an increased risk for developing a number of problematic developmental, physiological and mental health outcomes. For example, learning problems, developing peer relationships, internalizing symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety), externalizing symptoms (e.g., conduct disorder, aggression). As adults, these children develop an increased risk for psychiatric disorders, substance use, serious medical illnesses, and also face lower economic productivity.
2. Easy Victim or Targets for Others
Howe (2005) explained that children who are neglected become the “ easy targets of peer taunts, rejection and bullying. It shows that the experience of neglect or feeling rejected has common risk factors. Thus, it includes previous experiences (Direct or Indirect) of :-
- Neglect or abuse,
- Number of siblings in the home,
- Social isolation and stress,
- Unemployment or financial inadequacy,
- Caregivers history of substance abuse,
- Victimization as a child,
- Lack of support and care etc.
3. Risk of Depression and Suicide
Exposure to childhood adversity has an impact on adult mental health as stated in a study by Merrick et.al (2017)’s “unpacking the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult mental health”. It increases the risk for depression, suicide, several adult mental or behavioral health concerns. It emphasizes the need for preventive, corrective measures to deal with such adversities in early childhood.
4. Disadvantages of the Psychological loss of a parent, and the loss of support from a Parent.
Katherine et.al studied the impact of parental divorce or separation. The majority of children experience relatively short-lived problems after dissolution of their parents’ marriage. Within two years of a separation, the majority of parents regain their equilibrium. They establish polite but distant communication with their ex-partner, and their children, in turn, adapt to the new living arrangements. Nevertheless, most children report painful feelings about their parents’ divorce. A significant minority of children suffer extended and prolonged symptomatology. Hence, it may be related to parental divorce that may include both internalizing and externalizing problems.
In conclusion these experiences can have very traumatizing impacts on the child However, it may also torch the light of compassion, maturity and understanding overtime. In order to avoid, deal with and protect children from such experiences some vital preventive and supportive measures are needed. Moreover, there is a need to develop positive parenting skills, strong support systems in parents. Thus, establish certain skills in children to cope with such experiences along with the development of resilience. Therefore, these skills will help the child to deal with the negative experiences and develop a better version of themselves!