While it’s well-known that adverse childhood experiences carry over into adult life, a new study focuses on the effects of these experiences during the childhood years.
For the study, presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2016 National Conference & Exhibition, researchers conducted a systematic literature review to identify some of the clinical signs that can be used to recognize children at risk after experiencing trauma. They examined 39 cohort studies to determine the effect adverse childhood experiences has on health and biological outcomes in children.
The researchers found that household dysfunction affects children’s weight early in childhood, and abuse and neglect affect children’s weight later in childhood.
Children exposed to early adversity also have increased risk for asthma, infection, somatic complaints, and sleep disruption, according to the study’s findings.
Maternal mental health issues are associated with elevated cortisol levels, and maltreatment is associated with a lower cortisol profile, researchers add.
“The majority of research on early adversity has looked at long-term adult outcomes,” said Debby Oh, Ph.D., a research associate at the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, California. “While this research has helped identify the problem, we must also deepen our understanding of what is happening in the brains and bodies of our children as they experience adversity.”
Oh said that with appropriate intervention, children are able to recover from some of these negative health effects, making early detection a powerful tool to protect the health and well-being of children before long-term adult outcomes occur.