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The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Trauma

Most of us know someone who is dealing with a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.  Many of us can also identify a person who struggles in personal relationships, or with substance abuse or mental illness.  We might be left wondering, “What’s wrong with them?” but research is showing us the more useful question is “What happened to them?” and more specifically, “What happened to them as children?”

Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, help shape their health and well-being as children grow into adults.  For over 20 years, researchers have been studying Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include physical abuse, emotional abuse, violence between parents, and mental illness and/or substance abuse in the home.  Studies tell us that ACEs are strongly linked to poorer health outcomes including chronic diseases later in life.  In younger people, ACEs are connected to impaired cognitive, social and emotional functioning and higher rates of early use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances as well as risky sexual behaviors.  Academic performance, graduation rates and employment potential are also lower for children exposed to numerous or frequent ACEs. 

The cause of these poorer outcomes can be linked to the stress response that becomes over-activated in these children.  Over time, changes to the child’s physiology occur, which makes it more difficult for the child to respond to stress in healthy ways.

Fortunately, not every child is destined to experience these negative consequences.  Healthy relationships with parents and other caregivers can protect children, as can educational and other community resources.  Counseling has been found to be effective in increasing children’s strengths and resilience.  One such treatment is Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), which includes a significant parenting component.  Safe+Sound Somerset counselors have been trained and offer this treatment to appropriate clients and their caregivers.  Please call us to find out more about these services.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2014). Adverse Childhood Experiences and theh Lifelong Consequences of Trauma. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/ttb_aces_consequences.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html

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About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.

About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.


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