Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma The childhood years, from the prenatal period to late adolescence, are the “building block” years that help set the stage for adult relationships, behaviors, health, and social outcomes.23 The occurrence of Adverse Childhood Experiences and childhood trauma can damage those building blocks. Early care and education programs can help children develop resilience to combat the negative effects of those.
Adverse Childhood Experiences Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling or other member of the household. Traumatic events in childhood can be emotionally painful or distressing and can have effects that persist for years. Factors such as the nature, frequency and seriousness of the traumatic event, prior history of trauma, and available family and community supports can shape a child’s response to trauma.24 Adverse Childhood Experiences and associated conditions such as living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, frequently moving, experiencing food insecurity, and other instability can cause toxic stress (i.e., prolonged activation of the stress-response system). Some children may face further exposure to toxic stress from historical and ongoing traumas due to systemic racism or the impacts of multigenerational poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.