New CDHS Report Addresses Parental History of Adversity

DENVER (Oct. 17, 2017)—The Colorado Department of Human Services' Office of Early Childhood (OEC) and the University of Denver (DU) have released a report exposing the lasting impacts of early childhood adversity on physical and mental health. These Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)—events ranging from cases of physical, sexual or emotional abuse to instances of household dysfunction like divorce or family member incarceration—were found to significantly increase the likelihood of long-term negative health risks for adults and their children.

Findings on lasting health effects revealed that adults with at least one ACE were twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, and those with four or more ACEs were nearly twice as likely to suffer from cancer and almost six times more likely to experience depression.

The report, “Parental History of Adversity and Child Well-being: Insights from Colorado,” was developed in partnership with Drs. Sarah Watamura and Samantha Brown of DU, with financial backing from Ben and Lucy Ana Walton, whose philanthropy supports efforts in early childhood development.

According to the report, nearly 62 percent of adults surveyed reported experiencing at least one ACE, and 15 percent reported more than four ACEs, with higher rates among women and individuals who did not graduate from high school. “In Colorado we are focused on using a two-generation lens to identify and prevent the significant and lasting impacts of early childhood adversity,” said Jordana Ash, OEC’s director of Early Childhood Mental Health. “The report is a crucial first step in recognizing the intergenerational impact that negative experiences can have over time. We learned that ACEs are unacceptably common in our communities. We’re working to change that.”

The report details links between a parent’s ACEs, household risks, and physical and mental health problems in their children. Parents with one to three or ACEs were twice as likely to have their child labeled ADD/ADHD and more than five times as likely if they had four or more ACEs. Parents with more than four ACEs reported greater need for mental health services for their children, but less access to those services.

“Instances of abuse and household dysfunction at an early age have a worrisome effect, not only on the individuals in question but on the physical and economic health of our community as a whole,” said Dr. Sarah Watamura, co-author of the report. “The health issues that can arise from ACEs are costly and can severely decrease productivity and the overall well-being of Coloradans. We owe it to our children to continue to study how a holistic, intergenerational approach can lead to a healthier Colorado.”

For the complete report, click here.

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