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Adverse childhood experiences have life-long health and social consequences

Research suggests a cyclic effect which affects the next generation

Research conducted by Liverpool John Moores University on behalf of the NHS has found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute to poor life-course health and social outcomes. The fact that ACEs are linked to involvement in violence, early unplanned pregnancy, incarceration, and unemployment suggests a cyclic effect where those with higher ACE counts have higher risks of exposing their own children to ACEs.

The research team – Mark Bellis, Helen Lowey, Nicola Leckenby and Karen Hughes of Liverpool John Moores University, and Dominic Harrison of the National Health Service – carried out a retrospective cross-sectional survey of 1500 residents and 67 substance users aged 18–70 years in a relatively deprived and ethnically diverse UK population.

The ACEs about which they were asked included living with depressives or alcoholics, being the child of separated or divorced parents or suffering violent or sexual abuse.

Professor Mark Bellis is quoted in the Daily Mail:

"We were surprised at just how pervasive the effects of early years experiences really are. These results underline the critical importance of a person's start in life.

"If we, as a society, can get the early years right for children then we can have a positive effect on practically every aspect of their later lives. "If we can understand why problems occur, we stand a better chance of preventing them happening in the first place.

"Our figures also point strongly towards there being vicious cycles in lifestyles and behaviour. Individuals born into problematic situations are growing up perpetrating the same problems as adults because they, too, find it difficult to cope with being a parent. 'But you only have to break that cycle once and the family can then maintain itself."