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Rapaport: Parents' Childhood Trauma Tied to Behavior Problems in Kids

Parents who had a lot of traumatic or stressful experiences during childhood may be more likely to have kids with behavioral problems, a U.S. study suggests.

Adverse childhood experiences 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.

These childhood experiences have been linked to "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. But the exact effect of parents' trauma on their children's behavioral and emotional health isn't fully understood.

In the current study, researchers examined data on how many different types of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were endured by the parents of 2,529 kids, and how often the kids experienced emotional or behavioral problems or attention issues.

Compared to children whose parents didn't experience any ACEs, children whose parents went through one type of adverse experience in childhood were 44 percent more likely to have hyperactivity and 56 percent more apt to have emotional or mental health issues, researchers report in Pediatrics, online July 9.

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