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What is Childhood Trauma?

You can tell when a kid is in trouble. While you might not understand the reasons behind their responses, you know that aggression, withdrawal, self-harm and other destructive behaviors all point to a young person in pain.

These behaviors typically point to a young person who's experienced Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). ACEs are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect.

About Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Traumatic events, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), can have many profound effects on childhood development. Not only can prolonged exposure to trauma interrupt a child’s physical and mental growth, but high doses of adversity have been shown to change the brain’s architecture and responses to stress. If left untreated, these changes can result in unshakable feelings of terror, depression, and helplessness.

When a child is exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences, there is no doubt that the trauma will bear some effect on them. Instead, the question is how deeply they will be affected by adversity.

Idaho Youth Ranch is here to help young people, ages 9 through 24, overcome these difficult experiences by transforming pain into strength, fear into confidence, and trauma into resilience. Get help for a child today. 

Idaho ACEs Data

There's a lot of things that can cause trauma. About 20 years ago, doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente discovered something that changed the way we think about childhood experiences. They asked 17,000 people 10 questions. They all started with "Before your 18th birthday, did you experience..." and questioned people about a list of adverse experiences, including various types of abuse, neglect, and violence. Calculate your ACE score now.  

The results of the study showed ACEs are common. About 61% of adults surveyed from 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs. 

Idahoans are certainly no strangers to Adverse Childhood Experiences. Based on data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idahoans are more likely to have experienced 4 or more ACEs than the average American. 

prevalence of ACEs-1
 
 
education and income
 
Based on this data, the more ACEs an Idahoan has the more likely they are to live below the poverty line and less likely they are to have an income of $75k plus. Additionally,  the more ACEs an Idahoan has, the less likely they are to graduate college.
 
Unsurprisingly, childhood trauma can have serious, lasting impacts on mental health. Take a look at this data about Idahoans and poor mental health days, as well as suicide attempts. 
 
suicide attempts and poor mental health
 
 ACEs can also lead to substance abuse as well. The following graphs show how ACEs can increase the likelihood of a person binge drinking or using marijuana. 
 
substance use
 
 
 

Adverse Childhood Experiences can get under your skin and cause a variety of health impacts through toxic stress. 

Stress is a normal part of life and growing up. However, there are different types of stress which can affect a developing brain in different ways. There are three different types of stress: 

  • Positive stress, like starting a new job, is normal and causes a healthy stress response in the face of tense situations.
  • Tolerable stress is more significant and typically has a long lasting effect caused by a more serious situation, like the loss of a family member. While this kind of stress can be very challenging, it is typically considered tolerable because of the support system someone has in place to help them cope.
  • Toxic stress is the prolonged activation of the body's stress response to frequent and intense situations, like repeatedly witnessing violence in the home or community.
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Behavioral Impacts of ACEs

A young person who has experienced trauma can exhibit a variety of behaviors. They might lash out in sudden anger or become increasingly moody and withdrawn. Perhaps they’ll find themselves in with a new group of friends or trade their bright and friendly disposition for the one you can no longer recognize.

ACEs research has taught us that chronic exposure to trauma can lead to unregulated doses of toxic stress, and while this natural stress response may be useful to someone who is coping with adversity, it may also be the origin of many observable issues.

Learn More About the Behavioral Impact of ACEs

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Educational Impacts of ACEs

Children who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) report higher instances of having problems in school.

According to a 2015 publication by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, instances of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction occurring before the age of 18 can disrupt brain development and limit one’s social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

Because of this disruption, ACEs are the root cause of many serious academic, social and behavioral problems that have the potential to prevent a child from receiving the full benefits of education (Kauffman, 2016). Multiple studies have found a correlation between students’ ACE scores and academic performance. In fact, an ACE score of 3 or higher makes children 32 times more likely to struggle in school. (Harris, 2017).

Learn more about the Educational Impact of ACES

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Juvenile Crime and ACEs

By affecting normal, adolescent development, trauma can cause a multitude of physical, mental, and behavioral consequences. With this, it is perhaps not surprising that researchers have found a significant correlation between juvenile crime and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

For example, in a 2017 study by Hanie Edalati of the Université de Montréal, criminal involvement rates were found to be significantly higher among those with a history of ACEs. Also according to this study, juvenile offenders are not only four times more likely to report an ACE score of 4 or higher, but they are 13 times less likely to report an ACE score of 0.

Learn More About Juvenile Crime & ACEs

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Societal Costs of Childhood Trauma

With nearly 67% of adults having faced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience, it's easy see how trauma has become a public health crisis. As a result, this trauma not only affects individual people on mental, physical, and emotional levels— it affects everyone, and it's taking a huge toll on our society.

"ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES ARE THE SINGLE GREATEST UNADDRESSED PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT FACING OUR NATION TODAY." 

-Dr. Robert Block, former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

If you have a young person in your life struggling with trauma, we can help.