Minnesota ACE survey finds more than half of state experienced one or more types of childhood adversity

Minnesota released the findings of a state-wide ACE survey today.  The results echo the CDC’s groundbreaking ACE Study. A telephone survey of 13,520 people in 2011 revealed that 55% had one or more types of adverse childhood experiences and, of those, more than half had experienced at least two or more.


Participants in the survey were asked whether they had experienced one or more of the following nine types of adversity: loss of a parent through separation or divore, watching a mother being abused, a family member in prison, a household member who’s an alcoholic or addicted to some other drug, a household member who’s diagnosed with depression or other mental illness; verbal, sexual and/or physical abuse.

The most common were:

  • Verbal abuse — 28 percent
  • Alcoholic or substance-abusing parent — 24 percent
  • Mental illness  — 17 percent
  • Physical abuse — 16 percent

According to a media release issued by the Minnesota Department of Health:

Minnesota’s results are consistent with those found by the initial ACE study and in other states. First, ACEs are common; second, ACEs frequently occur together, and third, higher ACE scores put a person more at risk for poorer health and well-being outcomes as an adult. For example, Minnesotans with more ACEs were more likely to rate their health as fair or poor, to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, to report smoking and chronic drinking, to have been diagnosed with asthma, and to be obese. In

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Heavy childhood trauma ups risk of child/teen suicide 51x; so how does a community prevent it?

Dr. Linda Chamberlain lives in Alaska, where suicide rates are “typically double the national rate”, she says in lindathis blog post on the web site of the Scattergood Foundation. She’s the Thomas Scattergood Scholar on Child Behavioral Health this year. As founder of the Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project, she’s concerned about domestic violence and child abuse, which the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study found are risk factors for suicide. She points out how ACEs increase the risk of suicide:

Early adverse childhood experiences [ACEs] dramatically increase the risk of suicidal behaviors.  ACEs have a strong, graded relationship to suicide attempts during childhood/adolescent and adulthood.  An ACE score of 7 or more increased the risk of suicide attempts 51-fold among children/adolescents and 30-fold among adults (Dube et al, 2001).  In fact, Dube and colleagues commented that their estimates of population attributable fractions for ACEs and suicide are “of an order of magnitude that is rarely observed in epidemiology and public health data.”  Nearly two-thirds (64%) of suicide attempts among adults were attributable to ACEs and 80% of suicide attempts during childhood/adolescence were attributed to ACEs.  Further, while system responses to family violence continue to place greater emphasis on physical forms of abuse, the strongest predictor of future suicide attempts in ACE research was emotional abuse.

Holy Toledo. These numbers are nothing but scary. And tragic.

One of the ways that communities can begin to prevent suicide is to understand adverse childhood

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Camden, NJ, teens, young people suffer under heavy load of trauma

CourierPostOnline.com’s Kevin Shelly did an outstanding story about the effects of trauma and

 Quamir Houston talks about  the death of his sister Quanyrah, 16.

Quamir Houston talks about the death of his sister Quanyrah, 16.

violence on one of the nation’s poorest communities, Camden, NJ. It was accompanied by  a heart-wrenching video. From the story:

Repeated exposure to trauma in the poorest city in America carries very real and lasting health risks that span generations, according to medical experts.

Experts say communities can either support — or impede — the healing process from such trauma, depending on how they respond.

One way is to use a trauma-focused approach to individuals and the city as a whole, acknowledging the issue and publicly discussing what the consequences are. A good start, according to Dr. Vincent J. Felitti, would be to use a questionnaire developed through the Adverse Childhood Experience study, which is run by the federal government and Kaiser Permanente, an insurance company with medical services integrated into its offerings. Felitti pioneered the ACE study.

Father Jeff Putthoff, a founder of STOP, which stands for Stop Trauma on People, believes that needs to be a part of the discussion in the city.

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Memphis is taking baby steps into its future….really!

In Memphis and Shelby County, TN, an amazing movement is taking hold. Led by the non-profit Urban Child Institute, researchers, strategists, practitioners, parents, and community members are pouring considerable efforts into the health and well-being of children from conception to age three. As they say on their site’s “About” section: “We are dedicated to turning knowledge and research into measurable change.”

The video above lays out the basics of the Baby Small campaign that the organization launched in November.

Baby Small reminds us that the first years of life are a period of both extraordinary development and extraordinary opportunity. Babies’ brains develop in response to their environments. When they are surrounded by safety and love, for example, babies develop a stable sense of security and self-confidence. When these attributes develop in early childhood, they support a child’s readiness for kindergarten, and strengthen the foundation of that child’s success in school and life.

This organization has a wealth of scientific advisors and contributors, one of whom is Bill Day, an award-winning political cartoonist. He’s done some of the most poignant illustrations in defense of children that I’ve ever seen. You can take a look at them on the Urban Child Institute’s illustrations section.

Digging deeper with more questions to prevent another Newtown, CT, massacre

Students on morning of shooting in Newtown, CT. Newtown Bee photo.

Sandy Hook Elementary students on morning of shooting in Newtown, CT. Newtown Bee photo.


Nearly a month has passed since the tragic school massacre in Newtown, CT. Most of the response has focused on controlling sales of assault weapons. This is a good thing. It can limit the lethality of attacks — automatic guns do more damage than knives. But it will do nothing to prevent violence.

To get at the turning points in the years-long chain of events that led a young, isolated, desperate man to kill his mother, 20 six- and seven-year-old children, six adults and then himself, we need to ask more questions. Questions about what happened to Adam Lanza when he was a child. Questions about his relationships with his mother, Nancy Lanza, and the rest of his immediate and extended family. Questions about whether the community that he grew up in was aware of his troubles and his troubled family, and if and how they helped.

The last 15 years of research about how adverse childhood experiences cause adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence is unequivocal. To understand what happened to Adam Lanza, we have to ask difficult questions. Dr. Vincent Felitti, one of the two principal investigators in the CDC’s groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, noted: “Most of us have been well-taught that it would be terribly rude to inquire, thus often allowing monstrous events to proceed unrecognized.”

Here are the questions, with short explanations of why each is important. At the end, a larger view of how asking these questions can help us prevent another Newtown, CT, massacre.

Was Adam actually diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist?

It has been reported that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s (now officially referred to as being on the autism spectrum), which by itself does not lead to violence. So, something else was going on. Did a trauma-informed professional do the diagnosis, i.e., someone

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What happened to “Charlie” started in his mother’s womb

Beginbeforebirth.org was put together by researchers from the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London. It posted the latest research on how a mother’s stress, caused by everything from domestic violence to natural disaster, affects what happens to the fetus developing in her womb.

The organization produced a series of games and videos, including Charlie’s Story, that look at a mother’s stress, how genes can be turned on and off depending on what’s happening in the mother’s social environment, and what the long-term consequences can be.

The site has a good section on epigenetics. You think the DNA you’re born with is your blueprint for life? Not quite. Your genes can be turned on and off, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently by what’s happening in your relationships. Getting a lot of verbal abuse and physical abuse from mom or dad? That’s setting off a flood of toxic stress hormones that are changing your DNA. And if the abuse is severe enough, you can pass the changes on to your children.

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Video: End It Now — Understanding and Preventing Child Abuse

Last month, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital released an outstanding, optimistic, and solution-oriented video about child abuse, which they define as physical, sexual, verbal abuse and domestic violence.

What makes the video so strong are the stories told by three very brave people:

  • Amanda Marsh, who was sexually abused by her stepfather from the time she was 13 to 17 years old. She and her sister eventually reported him, and he is now in prison.
  • Crystal Risely, physically and sexually abused by her physician father from infancy until she was 22 years old, molested by a teacher when she was 12, and molested by a principal when she was 16.
  • One man who was physically abused by his father from infancy until he was 16 years old. It ended when he left home. In the video, he prefers to remain anonymous.

Dr. Clare Sheridan-Matney, director of the division of

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Violence Against Women Act flounders, sinks in 112th Congress…

VAWA…and Sen. Patty Murray intends to reintroduce it. Here’s a great analysis of what happened to the legislation — passed in 1994, with the leadership of then-Sen. Joe Biden — and reauthorized without problems until Oct. 2011, “after conservative lawmakers balked at the addition of expanded protections for undocumented immigrant, Native American, and LGBT victims of sexual assault.” As author Tara Culp-Ressler, an editorial assistant at ThinkProgress, noted on Atlantic.com:

As the legislation hung in the balance this past year, Rep. Gwen Moore went to the House floor to recount the story of her own sexual assault to explain why this country needs VAWA. Moore said that as she watched Republican men begin to stall the reauthorization of the bill, “it brought up some terrible memories for me” of both the

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Rape, domestic violence, child abuse go hand-in-hand in India and everywhere else

rapeThe most thorough, most sickening and astounding overview I’ve seen of the fatal rape of the paramedic student in India appears in today’s Daily Beast: India’s Fatal Rape Was Typical in a Country That Degrades Women. Journalist Anuradha Roy explains the context of why rape is commonplace, and why the protests won’t make much of a dent in the power structure:

In the 2009 parliamentary elections, India’s political parties fielded 6 candidates charged with rape while 34 candidates were awaiting trial for crimes against women. In the state assemblies, 42 members had rape or associated charges against them at the time of their

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