Monthly Archives: February 2013

The ACE Study

ACE’s Affect
ACE’s Too High

How many Americans are informed about the ACE study? Not many.

The question in my mind is why. Why are we neglecting what is obviously so important and critical to our society’s well-being?

The ACE study came out of a weight loss study at Kaiser Permanente, originally in the 1980’s, led by Dr. Vincent Felitti. In conducting the weight loss study with a relatively large sample of patients, Dr. Felitti discovered that many of them could not keep on track psychologically in their weight loss goals, and that many of these individuals had adverse childhood experiences.

In posing to those involved in the study questions designed to elicit the number of adverse childhood experiences they suffered, Dr. Felitti and his colleague Robert Anda, found that the number of adverse childhood experiences a person suffered was directly proportional to the number of adult risk factors that person was undergoing, including mental health issues, addictions, physical illness and disease, shortened lifespan, incarceration, financial struggle, job loss, obesity, depression, among others.

The adverse childhood experiences considered as risk factors included parental domestic violence, parental incarceration, parental drug or alcohol abuse, divorce, child abuse, etc.

In finding that adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) led to adult risk factors, the researchers also found that the number of ACE’s was proportional to the number of adult risk factors. Said another way, the more childhood trauma an individual has undergone, the more likely he is to be susceptible to problems in adulthood, including even physical health risks.

Originally conducted in the 1980’s, this study still does not have widespread recognition in the general population. However, those working the field of child welfare are beginning to discuss it, spread the word, and work at ways to implement its revolutionary conclusions into treatment and prevention in communities.

It seems to me we need to speed up the dissemination of this information.

See the ACE Study’s website to learn more.

Children’s rights – the final frontier

While we have a way to go, we as a culture understand that it is important to protect the rights of women, racial minorities, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and others who have historically suffered discrimination. Unfair discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation is now prohibited under a number of federal laws. We even staunchly stand behind the rights of animals, and rightly so.

However, what is incredible and incongruous, is the fact that we leave our most vulnerable unprotected, often protecting the rights of the powerful to do as they please to them including the use of legally sanctioned physical violence.

Yes, I am referring to our children. We in the United States have fought for the rights of parents to do as they please with their children, despite our awareness of very high statistical numbers on abuse and neglect in the home (including for instance the fact that one in four females and one in six males is a victim of sexual abuse in his/her own home by age 18).

Parental autonomy is written into our system, and many parents will fight hard for their right to hit children, which is protected throughout the United States. That in itself is shocking. If a grown man hits another grown man, that act is a crime. If that same grown man hits his own helpless tiny one-year-old baby, the one he was entrusted by nature to protect, we legally, morally, and generally as a nation sanction and protect that behavior as a parental right.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a parent’s right to raise his or her child is a fundamental right protected under the 14th Amendment (as if you recall it has in the past ruled that racial discrimination should be protected). Attempts to pass laws that limit parental rights to physically discipline their children, even in a limited way, are often met with stern resistance and even ridicule.

Not only are our laws and social values on this issue immoral, they are pragmatically incorrect. Recent studies, including MRI-based brain scans, have shown that corporal punishment in childhood fundamentally damages the forming brain of a developing baby and child leading potentially to a host of cognitive, psychological, and physical disorders.

Despite these studies, we are not changing. The Virginia Senate passed a bill last week to amend the Virginia Code to state, “A parent has a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education and care of the parent’s child.”

While this sounds benign, child welfare advocates are concerned that this provision will further support court decision makers in placing the rights of parents before those of abused and neglected children who may be in danger.

Consider this article describing the situation in Virginia.

The question I have is – where is the provision in the Constitution that protects the rights our children, our very future, to be free from violence and abuse?

Absolute proof of the importance of parenting

rain scans showing the effect of a mother’s love
Bruce Perry, Child Trauma Academy

There is no stronger evidence available today directly proving the importance of parenting than brain scans comparing the brains of those who were raised in a loving supportive environment and those who were raised with abuse and neglect.

A recent study out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that school aged children of mothers who had been more nurturing throughout their early years have larger, healthier brains.

Studying 92 children, evaluating objectively how nurturing their mothers were when the child was performing an emotionally stressful task, the researchers then conducted scans of the children’s brains. They found that children whose mothers were objectively identified as more nurturing each had a significantly larger hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for memory, stress control, learning, among other things. The hippocampi of the neglected children were up to 10% smaller than those of the children whose mothers were more caring and loving.

Take a look at the stark contrast in these comparison photos.