Juvenile offenders in Florida have starkly higher rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than the population as a whole, according to a study conducted by the state’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the University of Florida.
The study — The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders — is the first in the U.S. to look at the extent of ACEs among youth offenders. In the 64,329 Florida juvenile offenders surveyed, only 2.8 percent reported no childhood adversity, compared with 34 percent from the original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, San Diego, in 1998 . The CDC’s groundbreaking epidemiological study discovered a link between childhood adversity and the adult onset of chronic disease , mental illness, violence and becoming a victim of violence.
The 10 adverse childhood experiences measured in the Florida research and the CDC’s ACE Study were: emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; and five types of family dysfunction: witnessing a mother being abused, household substance abuse, household mental illness, losing a parent to separation or divorce, and having an incarcerated household member.
Half of the Florida juveniles reported four or more ACEs, compared with 13 percent of those in the CDC’s ACE Study. This is significant because, compared with people with zero ACEs, those with four ACEs are twice as likely to be smokers, 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, seven times