By Lisa Rapaport, Physician's Weekly, July 8, 2019.
Children who suffer adverse experiences tend to do worse in school than kids who don’t, but a U.S. study suggests parents may still help improve academic outcomes by simply talking to their kids.
Adverse childhood experiences, commonly called ACEs, can include witnessing parents fight or go through a divorce, having a parent with a mental illness or substance abuse problem, or suffering from sexual, physical or emotional abuse. ACEs have been linked to what’s known as toxic stress, or wear and tear on the body that leads to physical and mental health problems that often continue from one generation to the next.
For the study, researchers examined survey data on almost 66,000 students ages 6 to 17 gathered during the 2011-2012 school year. Overall, 44% hadn’t experienced any ACEs at all. Another 25% had exposure to one type of ACE, while 11% experienced two ACEs, 7% experienced three ACEs, and 13% were exposed to four or more ACEs.
“As the total number of ACEs a child encounters increases, school performance and engagement decreases,” said lead study author Dr. Angelica Robles, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Compared to kids who didn’t experience any ACEs, children exposed to four or more ACEs were more than twice as likely to repeat one or more grades at school, four times more likely to routinely skip homework, and three times more likely report not caring much about school, researchers report in Pediatrics.