Two thirds of Scots kids experience adverse childhood experiences

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 February 2019 in News

ACEs impact two in three Scots children, University of Edinburgh study finds

Children - stock/Holyrood

Traumatic events are experienced by two thirds of children in Scotland before the age of eight, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic experiences in the early years such as domestic violence or parental drug misuse, which growing evidence shows influence brain development and have a long-term impact on lifetime health, wellbeing and outcomes.

Using the longitudinal study Growing Up in Scotland, which includes more than 3,000 children, researchers looked at incidences of seven types of adverse experience.

Parents undergoing mental health problems or relationship break-ups were the most common, each affecting around one-third of children.

Almost one quarter of children had experienced frequent physical punishment. One in five felt unloved or emotionally neglected.

Some 14 per cent had been exposed to parental drug or alcohol misuse, while one in 10 had been exposed to domestic violence.

Dr Louise Marryat, Research Fellow in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We know that adverse experiences in childhood are associated with physical and mental health problems in later life.

“This is the first study to assess the scale of the problem in a current population of young people in the UK. We hope the findings will help to explain the context of ACEs, and lead to increased support for the groups most at risk.”

The research, published in the BMJ Paediatrics Open journal, also showed that boys were more likely to have had three or more traumatic experiences, as were those whose mothers had fewer educational qualifications and who lived in deprived areas.

The Growing Up in Scotland study is funded by the Scottish Government and carried out by ScotCen Social Research. Holyrood has used the study to chart the life chances of Kirsty, the Holyrood baby



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