Traumatic Experiences Impact Children’s Health

traumatic experiencesAccording to a University of Florida study, children who have experienced three or more traumatic experiences are six times more likely to suffer from mental, physical, or learning disorders than those who have never faced a traumatic experience.[1] Furthermore, these problems may begin immediately.1

Research coordinator for the University of Florida Institute of Child Health Policy, Melissa Bright, PhD, said, “The kids who have the highest number of traumatic experiences have the highest likelihood of having multiple conditions. It is not one poor health problem; it is a whole slew of poor outcomes across the board.1

University of Florida researchers analyzed the data from the National Survey for Child Health, which included information from 96,000 children nationwide.1 The survey listed the number of traumatic experiences the children faced: parental divorce, economic hardship, exposure to domestic and neighborhood violence, poor caregiver mental health, exposure to drug abuse, and having an incarcerated parent.1 Also, parents reported any conditions their children had.1

Between 11 and 24 percent of parents reported that their children were diagnosed with at least one disorder, and four percent reported their children had at least one disorder from all three categories: mental, learning, and physical.1 Results showed that children who faced adverse experiences were more likely to have a disorder in every category, compared to children who had not faced such experiences. 1

“The reason could be chronic toxic stress, which triggers changes to the child’s developing neuroendocrine and immune systems,” Bright said. “These changes can lead to poor regulation of the stress response and lowered ability to fight disease. These adverse experiences are affecting multiple domains of health simultaneously.”1

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement that endorsed increasing efforts to combat effects of toxic stress on healthy brain growth in children.1 However, researchers are still unsure if negative experiences actually cause the health conditions to occur, as the survey data was not a clear timeline.1

“It is also possible that having a child with multiple health conditions puts serious financial and emotional strains on families, making them more susceptible to adverse experiences such as caregiver mental illness and divorce,” said Bright. “We are currently collecting data for a new study in which we plan to examine this possibility.”1

Bright and colleagues hope to investigate the neuroendocrine and immune system changes further to study their link to poor childhood health outcomes.1

“If we can identify these changes early on, then we can develop interventions to hopefully prevent some of these poor outcomes,” said Bright.1

[1] Pedersen, T. (2014). Traumas May Have Immediate Impact on Kids’ Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 14, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/13/traumas-may-have-immediate-impact-on-kids-health/67058.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We are the only facility in Florida owned and operated by an addiction psychiatrist involved in all treatment decisions. Learn more
Hello. Add your message here.