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Many Adults Report Troubled Childhood Experiences
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Exposure to Difficulties During Childhood Could Increase Risk of Health Problems in Adulthood, Researchers Say
By Katrina Woznicki
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Dec. 16, 2010 -- More than half of adults surveyed reported experiencing one or more difficult childhood experiences, such as domestic violence or verbal abuse, indicating that troubled childhood experiences could be common, according to a CDC study.
Adverse childhood experiences, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, parents going through a divorce, a family member being in jail, and being mentally ill or abusing drugs, have been associated with an increased risk for several health problems, including heart disease, depression, cancer, and diabetes. By identifying and documenting the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), health care providers can boost their efforts in child abuse prevention and other parenting programs as a means to reduce ACEs.
Health Risks From Childhood
In this study, researchers from five state departments of health analyzed data from 26,229 adults living in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington State. The survey participants were asked about their childhood experiences involving eight categories of ACEs: verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, household mental illness, household substance abuse, witnessed domestic violence, parental separation or divorce, and incarcerated household member. Fifty-nine percent of the group reported experiencing at least one of these eight ACEs. Among the researchers' other findings:
The findings are published in the Dec. 17 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a publication of the CDC.
"State-based surveillance of ACEs can provide guidance for the allocation of maltreatment prevention strategies and trauma-related intervention services," the authors write in MMWR. "In addition, more research is needed to disentangle the specific role each ACE plays in the development of health problems later in life."
SOURCE: Bynum, L. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 17, 2010; vol 59: pp 1609-1612.