The Effects of Childhood Trauma

There is a very real public health crisis ravaging our community and you may not even know about it. It is more pervasive than any communicable disease. Its reach is greater than public health concerns like cancer, heart disease, and mental illness and chances are that you have even been impacted by it. Believe it or not, Childhood Trauma is the one of the greatest health issues of our day.

From 1995 to 1997, Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control studied the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). The idea was to see if these ACEs had an impact on the health of individuals experiencing them. In essence, is there a correlation between exposure to childhood trauma and health issues later on in life? The answer was a resounding “yes”.  The study found that while ACEs are common (64% of participants have experienced at least one ACE), only 12.5% of participants experienced four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences.

When we examine Adverse Childhood Experiences, we are not talking about an argument with your mom or dad. We are talking about significant issues that drastically disrupt neurodevelopment, create social, emotional, and cognitive impairment, and ultimately lead to disease, disability and social problems. There were a number of ACEs that were identified, but here are some examples:

·      Emotional Abuse:  A parent, stepparent, or adult living in your home swore at you, insulted you, put you down, or acted in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt

·      Physical Abuse:  A parent, stepparent, or adult living in your home pushed, grabbed, slapped, threw something at you, or hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured

·      Household Substance Abuse:  A household member was a problem drinker or alcoholic or a household member used street drugs

·      Parental Separation or Divorce:  Your parents were ever separated or divorced

·      Criminal Household Member:  A household member went to prison

The results of the study showed that there is a dose-response relationship between ACEs and negative health issues. As a person experiences more ACEs, their risk increases in categories like substance abuse, depression, ischemic heart disease, suicide attempts, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The more ACEs that a child faces, the more likely he/she is to die at an early age.

It is entirely reasonable to believe that the majority of children in the Brookside neighborhood experience at least one ACE and most likely 4+. If these children are some of the most neglected, abused and trauma-raised children in our city, is there any hope for a better future? At Brookside Community Play, we believe in a transformation that can happen in a child’s life that is greater than any Adverse Childhood Experience. We believe that as a child experiences a caring adult relationship, a sense of belonging and purpose, and is exposed to Gospel-centered character development, childhood trauma can be overcome.

Does Play actually work? Are lives being transformed through the power of play? I’d encourage you to come check us out and even consider spending some time with our kids. We’re always looking for volunteers and there are opportunities for everyone to get involved.

Let’s not let these Adverse Childhood Experiences be the defining factors in the health of our children. Together we can help kids overcome childhood trauma.

Andrew Neal

Director, Brookside Community Play


To learn more about the Kaiser/CDC study, please visit: