Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are deeply disturbing and distressing experiences that cause acute stress and anxiety in early childhood, limit their development and impact on their future lives.
Examples of ACEs are:
Emotional abuse, Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Neglect, Divorce, Parental substance misuse, Domestic abuse, Parental mental health, Parental incarceration
Traumas such as these damage their brains, their development, their physical, mental health and their future life.
Research shows that babies can experience trauma from as early as 17 weeks in the womb. At pre-birth traumatised babies are flooded with adrenalin from their mothers when she experiences trauma. This process means traumatised babies over develop their survival – life preserving part of the brain. This is an essential part of the brain that ordinarily only responds to perceived or actual threats.
Unfortunately, for repeatedly traumatised babies and children they develop whilst existing in a constant state of threat and acute anxiety. This development is most rapid up to the age of 5 years, with increased brain size during adolescence.
This diagram helps explain the process and impact of ACEs.
If children experience trauma, it affects the development of their brain particularly up to age 7 years. They use coping mechanisms that are increasingly dangerous as they get older and as a result can experience further trauma.
By the age of 7 years traumatised children’s damaged brains ability to change is now extremely low but the cost on public expenditure on the impacts of ACEs gets increasingly higher up to age 20 years plus, when it is far too late to change easily.
As traumatised children get older they use a range of increasingly dangerous coping mechanisms to survive every day. This could be internalising trauma and pain through self harm, eating disorders, alcohol, drugs to feel numb or drugs to feel high. Externalising coping mechanisms include bullying, anger, rage, violence and abuse. For some the ultimate act of suicide is their only solution.
Northamptonshire research shows that 17% (over 76,000) of county adults have experienced 2 or 3 ACEs and 9% of the population have experienced 4 or more ACEs and therefore are;
2 times more likely to be a binge drinker, 4 times more likely to have had sex before the age of 16 or smoked cannabis, 10 times more likely to have been a perpetrator of violence in the last year
ACEs are affecting thousands of local children’s lives now, have affected thousands more who are now young people, adults and most disturbingly now parents themselves with children aged up to 7 years who may be experiencing inter-generational impacts of ACEs.
The Crysalys Foundation seeks to create a holistic solution to childhood trauma by targeting interventions, resources and funding to children up to 7 years.
We can all be happier, healthier, safer, stronger, and more enabled.
You may be thinking this all sounds too good to be true, too complex, too transformational or too ambitious. What is the alternative? What is the solution? What happens if we don’t try this?
The alternative is continued devastated lives of children needing billions more in public spending
The sooner we get started, the better!