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Family Risk Factors for Adverse Childhood Experiences

Making childhood experiences fun. Family playing at home. Focus on hands. Close up.

People have difficulties in their lives, whether it’s bullying, losing a loved one, or witnessing violence. Without help and support, these traumatic events can negatively affect a person’s physical and emotional well-being. When these events happen to a child, they can have lasting negative effects. Understanding the risk factors for adverse childhood experiences lets you know when you may need to jump in and help.

ACEs Categories and Types

Adverse Childhood Experiences are traumatic events that happen in your life before you reach adulthood. There are 10 ACEs. Each traumatic experience can harm your ability to function as an adult if you don’t cope with them. 

The 10 ACES fall into three categories: 

  1. Abuse. When an adult abuses a child physically, emotionally, or sexually.
  2. Neglect. When a parent or caregiver doesn’t provide for a child’s basic physical needs or interact caringly with them.
  3. Household Challenges or Dysfunction. When someone in the household has a mental illness, suffers abuse, gets divorced, has a substance use issue, or is incarcerated.

Risk Factors for Adverse Childhood Experiences

People deal with trauma differently, even when they’re children. Just as responses to trauma are variable, so are risk factors. 

Risk factors related to ACEs include: 

  • Families dealing with challenges related to children with special needs
  • Children who don’t feel close to their parents or caregivers and can’t talk about their feelings
  • Youth who start early in dating or sexual activity
  • Children with few friends, no friends, or friends who behave in an aggressive or delinquent manner
  • Caregivers who experienced neglect or abuse as children
  • Families with young caregivers or single parents
  • Families with low income or adults with low education levels
  • Caregivers with inconsistent discipline or low levels of parental supervision
  • Families with lots of conflict and negative styles of communication
  • Communities with high rates of violence, crime, poverty, employment rates, and unstable housing
  • Communities with limited economic and educational opportunities and food insecurity
  • Communities with easy access to drugs and alcohol
  • Communities with few activities available for young people

Abused young woman sitting in her room alone crying after being abused

ACEs Outcomes in Adulthood

The long-term effects of ACEs also vary. But the long-term effects and consequences can be detrimental to one’s overall wellbeing in adulthood. 

ACEs-related outcomes include:

  • Impaired decision-making, learning, attention, and responses to stress
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Substance use 
  • Risky behaviors

Behaviors that result from ACEs can lead to early death.

ACEs Prevention Strategies

So, what can people do about ACEs? Experts identified many strategies to help prevent them. And like most prevention methods, it begins in the home.

Supporting a child — physically, mentally, and emotionally — is the foundation of preventing ACEs. This prevention includes meeting a child’s basic needs. Those needs include physical ones such as adequate housing, nutritious food, and access to healthcare. They also include emotional needs like education, a supportive family environment, positive friendships, and role models.

Nurturing parenting techniques and household rules also help provide structure and discipline for a child.

An overlooked means of preventing ACEs deals with parents taking care of themselves, as well. This care includes financial and employment stability, sufficient education, and promoting stable relationships.

But ACE prevention is not limited to just what happens at home. There are things the community can do to help too.

Community ACEs prevention strategies include:

  • Strengthening Economic Support for Families. This support includes improving and solidifying household financial security, as well as promoting family-friendly work policies.
  • Protecting Against Violence. Public education campaigns can help teach people to be allies in preventing violence.
  • Ensuring Children Start Strong. This support includes giving them high-quality childcare and providing them access to preschool coupled with family engagement.
  • Providing Education. Public educational programs on things like healthy relationships and parenting skills help children and parents.
  • Connecting Youth with Activities. Mentoring programs and after-school activities are excellent ways to strengthen children’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
  • Intervention. An intervention involves health care professionals who provide victim-centered services and treatment to prevent or treat problem behavior and lessen the harms of ACEs.

Early prevention and proper treatment help combat adverse childhood experiences, mitigate their effects, and end their recurrence patterns.

ACEs Treatment Options at ILC

Adverse childhood experiences make life difficult for many people. They also contribute to a cycle of abuse, mental health issues, and addiction. 

But you can cope with and recover from ACEs. Seeking professional help is the first step.

At Integrative Life Center, our holistic approach to mental health and addiction helps us treat more than those problems and their symptoms. We also treat the whole person and lead them along an individualized road to recovery, starting with identifying the cause of your illness.

There’s strength in admitting you need help. We’re here to give you that help. Reach out to ILC for the help you need in rebuilding your life and living to the fullest.

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