A set of questions called the ACE Study has been going around. The idea is that if you answer most of these question in the positive, it predicts that late in life you’ll have major health trouble in the main ways: heart attacks, kidney damage, liver disfunction.
The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide.
The first research results were published in 1998, followed by 57 other publications through 2011. They showed that:
Childhood trauma was very common, even in employed white middle-class, college-educated people with great health insurance;
There was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as depression, suicide, being violent and a victim of violence;
More types of trauma increased the risk of health, social and emotional problems.
People usually experience more than one type of trauma – rarely is it only sex abuse or only verbal abuse.
“A whopping two thirds of the 17,000 people in the ACE Study had an ACE score of at least one – 87 percent of those had more than one. (By the way, lest you think that the ACE Study was yet another involving inner-city poor people of color, take note: The study’s participants were 17,000 mostly white, middle and upper-middle class college-educated San Diegans with good jobs and great health care – they all belonged to the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization.)”
Prior to your 18th birthday:
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
- Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
- Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
- Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason ?
- Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
- Did a household member go to prison?
Another organization thought that there ought to be a counter-set of questions about what would make kids able to survive the difficulties above and they brainstormed these items.
1. I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.
2. I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
3. When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.
4. I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.
5. When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.
6. When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
7. When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
8. Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.
9. My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.
10. We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.
11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.
12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
13. I was independent and a go-getter.
14. I believed that life is what you make it.
If one were being honest about it, neither list has anything directly to do with being poor, belonging to a minority, enduring some kind of massive tragedy like a flood or earthquake, going through an economic depression -- all those forces that are arrayed against human beings trying to stick together and help each other. And yet we all know that the first of these lists have a LOT to do with poverty, bad nutrition, disorderly schools.
And here’s another dimension: “The Locust Effect”, a new book by Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros, describes places that are not just grappling with poverty. They are marked by disorder, violence and [hu]man-inflicted suffering. “The relentless threat of violence is part of the core subtext of their lives, but we are unlikely to see it, and they are unlikely to tell us about it. We would be wise, however, to not be fooled — because, like grief, the thing we cannot see may be the deepest part of their day.” Yeah, I bring this up because it applies to reservations where law enforcement is underfunded and confused by jurisdictional questions, distances are long so response times are long, and people have just gotten used to accepting low standards.
“The primary problem of politics is not creating growth. It’s creating order. Until that is largely achieved, life can be nasty, brutish and short.”
Order and dependability support growth. This is true of the electricity supply, true of employees, and true of police response. The answer is NOT vigilantes or outbursts of rage and punishment, which only create more confusion. Schools, churches and shops must be safe, orderly places, not because of force but because that's what they want to be.
It was sad that the superintendent of Heart Butte Schools and his wife were so shaken by threats from a punk kid that they actually packed up and left before the term had ended. They could not have been so panicked unless they listened to stories that are a kind of secondary violence in a town that takes a sort of secret pride in being a place for badasses. Like it means being powerful. I’ve lived in Heart Butte, I’ve heard the stories, and I’ve known some of the punk kids. I’ve also known many creative, dependable, cooperative families and their successful kids. Nor did they have to leave to be like that. They just wanted to be that way.