“Trauma and Adversity in Childhood: History Need Not Be Destiny”

I have quite a few acronyms and most of them are not my Friends.
I realize that not everyone may understand
what all those Letters Being Pals might mean.
PTSD and OCD being Beasts  earned the hard way during childhood.
Growing up with alcoholics is a Bitch.
No two ways around it.
I am an ACA:
Being ACA is  not  a cross I need to bear my whole life.
I have found the ACA 12 step program to be  a life saver.
The 12 steps, intense therapy
and a willingness to change;
Saved my life.
Thing is;
I need to keep saving my life.
Gifts from my childhood  haunt me to this very day.
The article below  recounts how we might
as a culture
begin to help kids who are today growing up in dysfunctional households.
I found this article hopeful and inspiring.
 “History need not be destiny.”
Peace,  Jen
******Article was found on the Huffington Post Blog********
Lloyd I. Sederer, MD

Medical director, New York State Office of Mental Health

Trauma and Adversity in Childhood: History Need Not Be Destiny

Posted: 02/27/2012 10:00 am

Once again, the American Academy of Pediatrics is demonstrating its clinical leadership. Two recent, groundbreaking reports — “The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress” and “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science Into Lifelong Health” — by the Academy boldly declare what has been known but too hidden from sight: Namely, that brain and emotional development is profoundly disrupted by childhood adversity and trauma.

The pediatric academy quotes Frederick Douglass who said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Toxic stress, or early environmental trauma, has been proven to disrupt normal brain development and trigger genetically predisposed diseases. The tragic results include impairments in the ability to regulate emotions and learn, to adapt socially with others and produce, in adolescence and adulthood, lifelong physical and mental disorders, including heart disease, asthma, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, substance abuse and PTSD. Trouble staying and succeeding in school are also common, as are brushes with the law.

Adverse Childhood Events, or ACEs, were initially studied by Kaiser Health of Southern California and then by the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Survey Initiative. ACEs include:

1. Direct psychological abuse

2. Direct sexual abuse

3. Direct physical abuse

4. Substance abuse in household

5. Mental illness in household

6. Mother treated violently

7. Criminal behavior in household

The greater the number of ACEs, the greater the risk of developing a chronic disease,
or multiple chronic diseases. From post traumatic disorder research we know the greater the
severity and frequency of the trauma the more like it will burn itself into the brains neural circuitry.

The mechanisms by which early childhood adversity lays its toxic roots are numerous and complex. The manifestations are as specific as youth engaging in impulsive and dangerous behaviors (well beyond normal adolescent risk taking), including reckless (and drunk) driving and unprotected sexual behaviors, which can result in sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies. The mechanisms are as fundamental as the unregulated and ongoing release of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, which weaken body defenses (compromising the immune system’s ability to protect from infection and cancer or to turn our immune systems against us in the form of autoimmune diseases), raise blood pressure, promote plaque formation in arteries, and are linked, neurologically, to depressive and post-traumatic stress illnesses.

The specialty of pediatrics was first to develop “medical homes” (popularized today with federal enabling legislation) designed initially for the young with serious and chronic illnesses whose proper care needs to be monitored and clinically managed by one responsible (accountable) doctor and clinic. Pediatricians have long used screening tools to track childhood development and more recently many have introduced depression screening (and treatment paths) as basic tenets of good care. Their declaration, through these recent reports, of the impact of childhood trauma is a rallying call for what heretofore was another example of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

There are many proven approaches to these problems. Among them are:

– Home visits by nurses to mothers identified as being at high risk for emotional problems (e.g., Dr. David Olds’ Nurse Home Visiting Program)

– Primary care screening and early intervention for depression in moms

– Pediatric screening and early intervention for depression and addictive disorders in youth

– Parental skills training programs (e.g., Positive Parenting, The Incredible Years, Bright Futures, About Our Kids)

– Youth support programs (e.g., Big Sister, Big Brother, after school programs)

– Pediatric medical homes that holistically support child development and deliver health, mental health and wellness services

– Trauma-focused mental health programs (for youth already affected)

The health of our youth, today and into their futures, can be protected. We can prevent the diseases and disabilities that result from childhood adversity and trauma. State and national budgets can be protected from decades of preventable health, correctional and social welfare expenditures. By following the wise counsel of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other professional and policy groups, early experience need not be destiny for countless children, their families and their communities.


Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Committee on
Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, and Section on Developmental and
Behavioral Pediatrics, Garner AS, Shonkoff JP, Siegel BS, Dobbins MI, Earls MF,
Garner AS, McGuinn L, Pascoe J, Wood DL: Early childhood adversity, toxic stress, and the role of the pediatrician: translating developmental science into lifelong health.
Pediatrics. 2012 Jan;129(1):e224-31. Epub 2011 Dec 26. PubMed PMID: 22201148.

Shonkoff JP, Garner AS, Siegel BS, Dobbins MI, Earls MF, Garner AS, McGuinn L, Pascoe J, Wood DL. The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. Pediatrics. 2012 Jan;129(1):e232-e246. Epub 2011 Dec 26. PubMed PMID: 22201156.

Association of Childhood Adversities and Early-Onset Mental Disorders With Adult-Onset
Chronic Physical Conditions: Scott,KM, Korff, M, ScD; Angermeyer,MC Benjet,C, Bruffaerts,R, de Girolamo,G, Haro, JM, Le´pine,J-P, Ormel, J, Posada-Villa, J, Tachimori, H, Kessler, RC, Archives of General Psychiatry Volume 68, August 2011

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Volume 59, December 17, 2010.

The opinions expressed here are solely mine as a psychiatrist and public health advocate. I receive no support from any pharmaceutical or device company.

~ by Step On a Crack on February 29, 2012.

25 Responses to ““Trauma and Adversity in Childhood: History Need Not Be Destiny””

  1. Reblogged this on iamnotshe and commented:
    Jen @ stephonacrack has found yet an another amazing, and HOPEFUL article for our youth! Thank you Jen.


  2. I love the idea that “History Need Not Be Destiny.” Let’s celebrate our resilience, capacity to heal to wholeness, ability to adapt, growth away from reaction to response.

    We may have been victimized, but we do not have to remain a victim! Thanks. ~ Paulann


    • I LOVE that title! It is what drew in to read the article. You probably have insight into haw these research projects impact policy. Will this research help? Will it make a difference and if so how long will it take?

      I think for now, we spread the word.

      Thank you for being here Paulann! I have been Momming it and have missed being here! Good to ‘see you’ again!

      XO Jen


  3. Reblogged this on the retarded owl and commented:
    thanks Jen for the reminder.


    • Hello there! I have been Being A Mom and have missed being here!

      I read this article and thought of you and a few other friends. What if someone would have noticed us and our trials? What if there had been a safety net?

      Your blog The Retarded Owl highlights how easy it is for kids to slip through the cracks. The system doesnt really work for the Kids involved. We need new research and new ideas. I loved this article for this reason. I am SO glad it was in a mainstream press place.

      It is funny: I have learned I have to give up thinking I have control over my addictions to understand that I do have control over my addictions. Does that make ANY sense?

      Peace, Jen


      • yup-I get it Jen. Kind of like surrendering, and so be it!
        And I agree, having this article in the mainstream press is definitely a great place for it. Interesting that weight watchers etc, are mainstream everywhere, but drinking, smoking, using drugs, just are not as sexy glamorous addictions to get help and understanding with from the general public I guess.


      • YES! I hope we live to see the day when family dysfunction gets half the press Sex and Rock and Roll do.
        I read your blog, THe Retarded Owl, and it is just SO clear we need to revamp the system. We need to SEE soon enough to get kids support that can really mean something.

        I get very irritated reading mainstream press. I just do…

        Thank you for being here and for doing what you do!

        XO Jen


  4. Hi

    Thanks for this, I am an ACA, and had to consciously make a decision not to be like my dad. This something my brother is still struggling with, he often will weaken and sit alone in a chair and drink a bottle of wine busy himself, do maybe he has a few demons to slay still.

    Capt. Savage
    (winning the battle a day at a time)


    • Dear Warrior Friend,

      Kudos to making the decision! I was in AA originally and switched to ACA when I did my 4th step and realized that most of my ‘issues’ stem from being an ACA. It IS a conscious decision isn’t it? I am sorry you see your brother following in your fathers footsteps. That is one of the hardest things to watch. I am back in ACA meetings now trying to get centered and realize “The only person I can change is me…” Yup.

      I love this article because it shows that MAYBE there is hope that one day a family practitioner doc or teachers may one day become trained to SEE you and I before we grew up and help get help before too much damage is done. We can hope…

      Peace, Jen

      Thank you for being here…


  5. Great info again, Jen! I’m glad the medical community is getting a clue. You’re doing a great service here and I thank you.


    • I LOVE this article! I will love it even more when policies are changed and care givers (docs etc) and teachers are trained to SEE what might be going on in the homes of kids growing up in dysfunction. It WILL happen. Things take time and awareness is the first step!

      Thank you for all that you do to educate us on the power and the mechanics of the 12 step program!

      XO Jen


  6. Jen – Great article. It makes me think about people like you and Heidi who made a conscious choice to break the cycle. I so admire you.


    • Debbie,

      I thought this was really moving in the right direction. It is sad that change comes slowly BUT if more and more research is done like this, imagine what kids in trauma may be able to access as help?

      I love thinking, no, knowing, that positive change is a certainty. It just is.

      XO Jen


  7. A great article Jen & wonderful words from yourself. I shall be forwarding this article onto my local member of parliment. NZ suffers greatly with child abuse. Many children bought up in toxic & stressful environments. Intervention is required but no-one seems to know where to begin. 😦


    • I am SO glad to hear it may be of use! Do you think there is more child abuse in NZ and if so why?
      It is tragic. Period. I think it is the worst thing we ALL deal with in any culture. children should be safe.

      I hope it helps!

      Peace to you my Friend! Jen


      • I am afraid to say that as of global child abuse statistics in 2010. NZ was number 1 in the western world countries. It is unfortunate the abuse comes predominately from the Maori race, they are 20% of the population but contribute to 80% of the child abuse. Not a week goes by when there isn’t a case in the news. The saddest point is that the political Maori party (who have a place in government) do absolutely NOTHING about it, believing there isn’t a major issue. It is this type of thinking & hypocrisy that keeps the abusers safe. If punishment was tougher & greater importance placed on education, we may start to see a change. Reports & articles like the one you posted, is so helpful. I emailed it off today, I can only hope it gets read. Thank you Jen


      • Oh this is SO sad! I had no idea…

        This is one of the amazing things about this BlogLand thing. I learn things I would never had known AND we can share information and solutions across the planet.

        I read a blog by Maiya, a poet in Papua New Guinea, and she writes with tremendous courage about the abuse women and children live with. It is heart wrenching. Her blog is called Words From My Soul.

        I love the saying “Women hold up half the sky” and that is visible and palpable here in the blogs. WE can effect change! We really can. AND we can do it together Woman to Woman to Woman all around the globe.

        Please keep me posted. I cringe when I read the stats you post. I want to cry when I read “keep the abusers safe..”

        No. THat is not right. We DO hold up half the sky

        and then some

        Thank you for taking concrete action. I am deeply inspired by what you have done.

        Peace, Jen


  8. fabulous post. Funny how we in the field know this but research has finally caught up with us. thanks for the good info.


    • Dear Louise,

      THANK YOU for stopping by!

      I am very grateful to have found YOU. I just reblogged your post about the Hero Child. I am looking AGAIN, at these issues and how they have informed my life. Yuck. I am grateful to my therapist and to the 12 step program ACA for helping me find my through my own Journey of a Thousand Miles.

      I LOVE your blog!

      Thank you very much,
      Peace, Jen


  9. Yes, the blogging world has certainly opened up a world of curiosity. It is a safe place for me & a place where (like you) we learn of the truths told by real people rather than the media. I shall definitely be checking out ‘words from my soul’ as heart wrenching as these stories are, they need to be heard. I absolutely believe that women hold up half the sky, we are strong & we DO act on the need for change, there is no mountain we cannot climb be it as individuals or as a group. I act on what I believe is wrong & there is NO excuse for abuse, we live in the 21st century for pitys sake, where education has never been more available to so many people. Certainly in this country it is in bred laziness & a poor me cap in hand attitutude, which perpetuates the cycle of abuse & crime. Ooops, I apologise Jen for my mini rant. Thank you for listening & thank you for being a great friend 🙂


    • OH yeah!

      Man! You are firey and dead on!

      ” a poor me cap in hand attitutude, which perpetuates the cycle of abuse & crime”

      I think that THIS is a major factor contributing to the increase in weirdness. It seems to me that we are becoming more Me Me Me and are much less likely to take responsibility for OUR reactions to our pasts. I see it in popular culture: cartoon characters dis each other with ease, kids on TV dis their parents and their friends and the laugh track backs that up as funny. We are cultivating a culture of “poor me” and letting it go.

      NEVER apologize here for a RANT! Rants are the seeds of change! I suppose the Suffragette movement here in the US started as a bunch of powerful Women RANTING around the playground.

      RANT away my Friend!

      Thank you for being here and for being YOU!



  10. Oh, so many good thoughts, but how to implement?!
    With the few laws we currently have for protecting children, government caseworkers are beyond overload, far, far beyond. I think you found a tiny, tiny clue with the TV thing, above. Children’s programing glorifying violence and abusive (even sexually abusive) attitudes are so wrong, and so are the parents who park their kids before it, as a substitute babysitter of sorts. My brother once almost jumped off the top of our house because he had a cape on, and he believed what he saw on TV. We just don’t think, the whole lot of us just don’t think. How on earth can there possibly be enough doctors, caseworkers, foster homes, dentention centers, and jails to deal with this, already, even without tougher laws?
    How to implement?! And with unfortunate families pouring into our country from even more violent cultures, at an unchecked rate, at a rate we have proven we cannot absorb or recover from, how, how, how will it get better?
    I love children. Had five of my own, on purpose. Fostered a sixth who fit the descriptors in the article you posted, never fixable (but curiously, almost never ill.) She is 39, now, but when she was four they placed her in foster care because ALREADY, there were NOT ENOUGH MENTAL INSTITUTIONS to take in all the destroyed children out there.
    It’s far, far worse, now. How to implement?

    From experience–sad and terrifying experience–I can say: implementation will be on a political basis, a piece-meal whim basis. And the first target will be the jugular of homeschooling.

    Oh yes it will. Always, always has been. Currently is.
    And why not?


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