A crucial and vital study that casts much light upon the connection between our childhood trauma and our adult health is the ACE ( Adverse Childhood Experiences ) study.
Essentially, this study demonstrated that the more traumatic our childhood was, the more risk we are at of developing adult illnesses, both PHYSICAL and MENTAL.
Specifically, the study found that the more CHILDHOOD ADVERSE EXPERIENCES (ACEs) we suffered as children, the greater our risk of developing adult illnesses.
The study focused on the following childhood ADVERSE EXPERIENCES:
– physical abuse
– sexual abuse
– witnessing the mother being abused by the father
– loss/abandonment/rejection by a parent (including due to separation and divorce)
– living with a parent suffering from a pathological addiction
– living with a clinically depressed mother
– living with a mother who suffers from another significant mental illness
Effects Of Such Adverse Effects :
Above: The Process Through Which Childhood Trauma Can Lead To Early Death.
It has been found that such adverse experiences during our childhood can lead to highly damaging effects that may be extremely detrimental to our adult health. I list the main ones below:
– harmful effects on the physical development of our brain leading to architectural brain abnormalities
– detrimental effects upon the brain’s functionality
(NB: However, the good news is that such damage can be reversible).
– adverse effects upon how our genes express themselves (genes do not express themselves in a vacuum; their expression is affected by the environment in which they exist)
– damaging effects on the operation of our stress hormones (eg. cortisol). This can lead us to become acutely reactive to the negative effects of stress in our adult lives resulting in a proclivity for us to react with great volatility and violence (in some cases, literally) in response to such stress (even stress that others may easily be capable of taking in their stride.
– an increased risk of serious physical diseases such as heart disease
Other Types Of Trauma:
I have already listed, above, the types of trauma that the ACE Study focused upon. However, continued research is demonstrating that is there traumatic childhood experiences, too, can impinge detrimentally upon both our physical and mental adult health; these include the following:
– growing up in severe poverty
– growing up environments in which there is little stimulation
– parental neglect (including emotional neglect)
– growing up in a violent environment
– growing up in an environment in which gang culture predominates
– being bullied at school
(The above list is NOT exhaustive.)
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE( FAHE).