Things do not always turn out as hoped. Infants and children can evolve in environments that can be chaotic, neglectful or abusive and have toxic effects on their emotional lives, cognitive potential, mental health and physical health.
Childhood adversity can scar everything from our DNA to our cultures and effects can be lifelong, even multigenerational. However, more adverse consequences can be reversed than used to be thought. But the longer you wait to intervene, the harder it will be – Robert Sapolsky, Behave
The effect is both direct and indirect:
- detrimental coping mechanisms, for example the use of food, drink, drugs to feel better
- the effects of chronic major unrelieved stress on the workings on the brain, releasing cortisol and suppressing the immunity system
According to Child Mind Institute’s 2016 Children’s Mental Health Report, over “17 million young people have or have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Put another way, “one out of every five children in the US meets criteria for a major mental disorder.”
Adverse Childhood Experiences study
In the most famous study on the far-reaching effects of childhood trauma, Dr. Vincent J. Felitti discovered important correlations – between obesity and sexual abuse, for instance – and uncovered their tragically common incidence.
40% of people experience at least one traumatic event before they reach adulthood.
“The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections.”
About one third of abused children will have serious psychological problems as a result. What determines how well they will do depends on whether they can count on at least one close supportive adult relationship.
- Video – How Childhood Trauma can make you sick (Big think, October 2015, 7 minutes):
- “55% of participants in our obesity program acknowledged a history of childhood sexual abuse”
- Almost 10% of the middle class has experienced six or more ACEs.
- Video – “How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime” (TEDx, Nadine Burke Harris, February 2015)
- Born for Love by Dr Bruce Perry
- Hungry Ghosts by Dr Gabor Mate
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk