Adverse Childhood Experiences and Mental Health, Chronic Medical Conditions, and Development in Young Children



      To determine the relationships between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and mental health, chronic medical conditions, and social development among young children in the child welfare system.


      This cross-sectional study used a nationally representative sample of children investigated by child welfare (National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II) from 2008 to 2009. Our analysis included caregiver interviews and caseworker reports about children aged 18 to 71 months who were not in out-of-home care (n = 912). We examined the associations between ACEs and mental health (measured by the Child Behavior Checklist [CBCL]), reported chronic medical conditions, and social development (measured by the Vineland Socialization Scale) in bivariate and multivariate analyses.


      Nearly all children (98.1%) were reported to have had an ACE in their lifetime; the average number of ACEs was 3.6. For every additional reported ACE, there was a 32% increased odds of having a problem score on the CBCL (odds ratio [OR] 1.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.14, 1.53) and a 21% increased odds of having a chronic medical condition (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.05, 1.40). Among children aged 36 to 71 months, for every additional reported ACE, there was a 77% increased odds of a low Vineland Socialization score (OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.12, 2.78).


      ACEs were associated with poor early childhood mental health and chronic medical conditions, and, among children aged 3 to 5, social development. Efforts are needed to examine whether providing early intervention to families with multiple stressors mitigates the impact of ACEs on children's outcomes.


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