Adverse Childhood Events


Recent research (Chapman, et. al.) has highlighted the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and later negative mental health outcomes, substance abuse, domestic violence and antisocial behavior. It is true that not all children who experience negative events in the home or community develop serious problems as many find help to build resilience and coping strategies. But the correlation is very high and the obligation on educators and social agencies is to identify children at risk as soon as possible.

Screening instruments have been helpful for use by professionals and schools, but many children are still given punishments for inappropriate behaviors rather than strategies for dealing with underlying issues. Clearly the lack of access to mental health and social work professionals in many communities is a large part of the ongoing problem. Educators are already stressed with multiple demands and lack of resources and support as a profession. White flight, private and charter schools also have left many public schools with disproportionately high number of children with academic and social challenges.

A solution that several programs and schools have tried is teaching resiliency to all children beginning as early as possible in the educational experience. The skills and empowerment strategies of these approaches have given children and youth positive responses to the challenges in their home and neighborhoods. Ironically, teachers and parents themselves can benefit from increasing their ability to respond to adverse conditions, present or past.

Though the issues facing children in the U.S. is nothing like those facing the millions suffering through the horrors of war in Eastern Europe. Yet poverty, domestic violence, sex abuse and other negative events can profoundly affect a child. It is important that all children be helped to overcome them.

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