When evaluating childhood trauma, experts often look at ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences. These include:
- Parental divorce or separation
- Parental death
- Parental incarceration
- Violence in the home or neighborhood
- Living with a mentally ill adult
- Living with someone with a substance abuse problem
- Experiencing economic hardship (often in the form of lacking food or housing)
There are additional events that may qualify as adverse childhood experiences, and researchers are constantly advocating for new events to qualify. For example, homelessness hasn’t always been considered trauma, and now it is. Trauma is a field that’s constantly evolving and understanding ACEs can help us evaluate and treat the children in our own lives. And if there’s one thing you should know about trauma it’s that it can impact everyone despite backgrounds, culture, or race. Here’s what you should know.
Really? There are no factors that impact childhood trauma?
It wouldn’t be entirely fair to say there aren’t factors that correlate with trauma. For example, some states have a higher prevalence of childhood trauma, which falls in line with the poverty rate. The states that were impacted most by childhood trauma were also those with higher poverty rates, OR the areas most impacted by childhood trauma were those in poor, rural areas. This seems to drastically affect how many children within state lines will suffer from a number of different ACEs.
If you look at the statistics nationally, one in every 10 kids has experienced three or more ACEs. The most common ACEs among American children are economic hardship or divorce/separation of parents or guardians. Although, there are some states that are higher on the list than others for children with no ACEs at all. This includes Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
Yet, there are also several that had around 14 percent who have experienced three or more ACEs. Among these states are Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, and Ohio. Arkansas, in particular, had over half (56 percent) of their children experiencing at least one ACEs. For comparison, Minnesota had the least of any state at 37 percent. Keep in mind that this means that over one-third of the state’s children are experiencing trauma in some form, which has the potential to impact them later in life.
Likewise, while whites and Asians have lower rates of ACEs and African-American and Hispanics have higher, this doesn’t mean any one race is entirely excused. The white population is far more likely to experience living with an adult with mental illness or deal with substance abuse in the home. On the other hand, African-American children experience parental incarceration at a higher rate.
Regardless of the ACE that these children experience, they are still suffering from trauma and can be impacted by it later in life.
In the U.S., nearly 35 million U.S. children have experienced one or more types of childhood trauma. This adversity is likely to affect their physical and mental health into adulthood if actions aren’t taken. Prevention, trauma-healing, and resiliency training programs can be provided to all children who have experienced trauma – regardless of background, culture, or race. Doing this will help to inhibit chronic disease and mental illness that can otherwise occur.
Looking for help with online training or speaking? Contact Derek Clark. As a motivational speaker and author delivering virtual keynotes, his first-hand experience with childhood trauma helps inform his work.