It’s interesting how long it takes for solid research to be integrated into daily life, especially research that produces results that shock us, but that we have somehow understood at some deep level all along. The CDC’s ACE Study — which linked childhood trauma with the adult onset of chronic disease, including mental illness, and violence or being a victim of violence — is one of those research studies.
Tuesday’s roundup featured a story about how exposure to child abuse and bullying affected our DNA, showing that stress leads to accelerated biological aging. Stephanie Pappas did a good story about the research in LiveScience, in which she quoted Dr. Elissa Epel, a University of California, San Francisco, health psychologist who studies stress and cell aging.
“Now we have some evidence that indeed children’s immune-system aging can be adversely affected by severe stress early in childhood, a scar that could last possibly decades later,” Epel told LiveScience. “This study underscores the vital importance of reducing violent exposures for children — both serious bullying and abuse in the family.”
The researchers pointed out that the violence doesn’t have to affect the child physically — it’s the cumulative stress that’s affecting the DNA.
This is another study that adds to the body of evidence supporting the work of neurobiologists and pediatricians, such as Dr. Martin Teicher and Dr. Jack Shonkoff, both at Harvard University, who’ve studied the effects of toxic stress on children’s developing brains. It also supports the research of the ACE Study, which looked at 10 types of childhood trauma — only two of which were physical abuse.
The video above is an introduction to a DVD that contains four hours of presentations by and interviews with Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-founders of the ACE Study. The DVD also has an interview with Dr. David Williams, a CDC researcher who introduced Felitti and Anda, and also contributed to the project. All provide information about the genesis of the research, its findings, its impact, and how it might be implemented. Dr. Frank Putnam, a child psychiatrist and director of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, provides his view of the impact of the research. A high-quality production, the DVD is divided into chapters. You can order it from the Academy on Violence and Abuse.