Experiencing a number of childhood stressors can harm the development of a child’s brain and nervous system, leading to life-long health problems and diseases – and even premature death.
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicinedetermined that children exposed to six or more “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) were at twice the risk of premature death compared to children who had not suffered those experiences. The study was based on questionnaires given to more than 17,000 adults who visited Kaiser Permanente between 1995 and 1997, and looked at the long-term effects of the following ACEs:
- Undergoing verbal or physical abuse
- Having a battered mother and witnessing domestic violence
- Living in a household with substance abuse or mental illness
- Have an incarcerated household member
- Having parents who are separated or divorced
“Overall, 1,539 people died during follow-up,” said David W. Brown, D.Sc., the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “People with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier on average than those without ACEs. It is also disturbing that two-thirds of study participants – persons who were relatively well off – had at least one of the ACEs.”
Children at the highest risk lived to an average age of 60, while those who were low risk lived to nearly 80, according to the study.
“It is important to understand that consequences to childhood trauma can extend over an individual’s life,” Brown said.
Minimizing Childhood Trauma
Depending on your situation, minimizing the stressors in your children’s lives may be difficult. If you are going through a divorce or separation, it is hard to not have this stress affect your children. Certain life events, such as a death in the family or a traumatic accident, are unavoidable. The best thing you can do for your children in any of these situations is to make sure to talk to your children about the event and let them express their feelings about it however is best for them.
As the continued relevance of Romeo & Juliet indicates, angst-infused teen relationships are neither new nor in any danger of disappearing from the face of the earth. But while most youth romances result in little more than wistful memories and reams of regrettable poetry, a disturbing number of young people leave their first love affairs with literal bruises and long-lasting psychological scars.
Several studies have documented the degree to which physical violence and emotional abuse have infiltrated adolescent and teen relationships. For example, the website Love is Not Abuse (which is sponsored by Liz Claiborne Inc.) features the following statistics about dating violence among young people:
- Sixty-two percent of tweens (ages 11 to 14) who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- One in three teenagers reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner.
- Thirteen percent of teenage girls who said they have been in a relationship report being physically hurt or hit.
- About 25 percent of teen girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse.
- About eight of 10 girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.
A Widespread Problem
Girls and young women are at greatest risk for becoming victims of relationship violence, but as the teen advocacy organization Do Something reports, no one who enters into a romantic relationship should consider themselves immune from the risk of physical and emotional violence.
You’ve been watching your teen struggle with drugs and alcohol for a couple of years. You’ve tried at-home detox, set strict house rules and kept a close eye on what your teen is doing after school. No matter how much you try, or how much you talk to your child, the substance abuse continues.
Don’t give up just yet. Help is available.
A residential therapeutic boarding school may be just what your teen needs to get on the path of sobriety. You may have resisted this type of treatment because you feel like you are giving up on your teen. Or you may have heard that these schools aren’t what they purport to be and can’t effectively help your teen recover from an addiction.
Either way, you’d be wrong. Residential therapeutic schools have proven to be effective with helping teens overcome addiction, work through mood disorders and quell their disruptive behaviors. They do so through treatment provided by trained professional staff who use proven therapeutic methods to help teens work through their problems and improve their behaviors.