Adverse Childhood Experiences

Summary: “Childhood adversity has been scientifically linked to adult physical and mental problems.”

A while back I read a book about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) titled Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. It’s probably not a book that will end up in the hands of many business leaders. However, it’s a topic that business leaders need to know more about because ACEs are often among the root causes of many workplace problems. Others need to know about ACEs because there is probably a 100% chance that someone you deeply care about is suffering because of them. Maybe if you understand ACEs, you will have the opportunity to at least point these people in the direction of some help.

Childhood Disrupted lists three broad categories (abuse, neglect, household dysfunction) and ten specific examples of ACEs – physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, mental illness, mother treated violently, divorce, incarcerated relative and substance abuse (here is the ACE questionnaire). These forms of adversity can literally and negatively alter the expression of genes that influence a person’s stress response system, autoimmune system, cardiovascular system and other vital organs and systems (through a process called epigenetics). Ultimately these alterations can lead to various forms of distress, disease and dysfunction. Even identical twins with identical genes can turn out quite differently because of the effects of ACEs and epigenetics.

Look around you; if you are hanging around with nine other people, there’s a good chance that six or seven of the people in your group have experienced at least one ACE. And adult troubles (physical and mental) usually increase exponentially as the number of ACEs increases.

If you have experienced one or more ACEs, you might want to read Childhood Disrupted, or watch some of the excellent videos on this topic. I usually warn people that the first half of the book is full of ACE case studies – and is a very tough read. However, the second half of the book focuses on how people can begin the healing process and reverse the effects of these early life toxic stressors.

Scientists have discovered that it’s possible to pass on the negative effects of ACEs and epigenetics to your children and grandchildren. Say you are one of the folks with multiple ACEs and you do not want to pass on the troubles to your children. Chapter eight is about Parenting Well When You Haven’t Been Well-Parented: Fourteen Strategies to Help Your Children. Whether you need help or want to help others, this is a good investment of your reading time. It is a way to help yourself and others more joyfully participate in life. Not a pleasant topic; but a very important topic!

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

P.S. I just remembered that an old book (probably out of print and only available used) called Your Inner Child of the Past by Dr. Hugh Missildine might also be very helpful if you are struggling with ACEs. Reading this book and Childhood Disrupted together could make quite a positive difference.


4 thoughts on “Adverse Childhood Experiences

  1. Reply
    Megan - October 19, 2017

    Great article Chris. I never understood who I was as an adult until you taught me to understand my childhood. Ordering the book right now!!!!

    1. Reply
      Chris - October 19, 2017

      Another great resource for this kind of knowledge is Your Inner Child of the Past by Dr. Hugh Missildine. Reading these two books together will give you some excellent insight on how childhood experiences influence adult behavior (and physical and mental health)…and more importantly, what to do about it. I read Inner Child over 30 years ago and recently re-read it. It was just as interesting and insightful. I think it might be out of print, so you can probably only buy it used.

  2. Reply
    Beth Peterson - October 20, 2017

    Amazon has copies, mostly used, for sale. I think I missed this book (Inner Child of the Past) in my young adulthood when I spent most of my spare change for therapy. Will check out the newer book that started this post. (or blog??)

    1. Reply
      Chris - October 20, 2017

      Yes, I just bought several used copies a few weeks ago to give to some people. They were very inexpensive. You missed a good one with this book.

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