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County focuses on reducing number of adults traumatized in childhood


Research shows traumatic childhood events have lasting impacts that go well into adulthood.

Before the late 1990s, substance abuse or divorce in the household weren’t considered long-term issues for children, said Anne Soule, the director of family support services for the Mental Health Association of Frederick County. But a study launched in 1998 introduced health experts to the concept of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) — dysfunction or abuse experienced at a young age that can have lasting influences on adult health.

“It created a paradigm shift in how the medical community views sedentary lifestyles in adults and disease in adults,” Soule said. “They found a very high correlation between adult health and early exposure to these experiences, and learned that they could predict health outcomes in adults into their 50s and 60s and 70s based on what happened to them when they were a child.”

Soule has spent years examining the long-term effects of ACEs, as has Lynn Davis, the director of the Child Advocacy Center of Frederick County. But even the longtime family health experts were surprised by new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed the prevalence of those experiences in Frederick County.

“It is always surprising to people when I talk about the numbers of children affected,” Davis said. “We have so many good things here, it’s hard to realize that some of our children are really suffering.”

According to the data — collected in 2015 through the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — 27.2 percent of Frederick County adults experienced three or more ACEs before age 18, compared with 24.1 percent of adults in Maryland overall.


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